[Harp-L] forgotten harmonica movie

Mick Zaklan mzaklan@xxxxx
Thu Jan 2 12:03:27 EST 2020

   As the holiday season comes to a close and "It's a Wonderful Life" fades
off television screens, it might be a good time to point out actor Jimmy
Stewart's modest contribution to our instrument.  Stewart made 78 other
films besides "It's a Wonderful Life" and in one of them, "Pot O' Gold", he
starred as a harmonica player in financial trouble.  You might ask, is
there any other kind?
   Jerry Adler, Larry's brother, dubbed in the harmonica parts and coached
Stewart on how to look realistic while playing.  The full movie is on
YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFUpcD8CsSU.  The best example of
the Adler/Stewart collaboration comes at 17:40 when Jimmy jams with
orchestra leader Horace Heidt.  Later on, at 26:25, he breaks out his
harmonica while sitting in a jail cell.  The first 4 minutes of the movie
are also worth a look.  A couple of child prodigies show up, cast as music
students in Jimmy's failing music store.  The little girl pianist is
jaw-droppingly good.  At 3:25, Jimmy is squirting oil into his chromatic
harmonica; telling his uncle that "they need a tune-up every thousand
miles".  Most of the repairmen I know would cringe at this.
   Though Mr. Stewart himself reportedly called this film "the worst movie
I ever made", I was entertained by what I saw while skimming it.  After
all, this was a major studio committing serious resources and star power to
a movie where the harmonica had a fairly substantial role and there were
quite a few talented instrumentalists, singers and dancers scattered
throughout.  Would we ever see anything like this again?  A "La La Land"
for harmonica?  Or, say, Timothee Chalamet in "The Howard Levy Story"?  Not

Mick Zaklan

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