This has been one of my favourite films since I first saw it as a child, around 1942. It led me to later take up the clarinet and gave me a lifelong love of jazz..
The film is really the story of The Original Dixieland Jazzband, although this is never acknowledged, with Bing Crosby playing the Nick La Rocca part. In spite of its mild racism, characteristic of the Hollywood of the times, and its emphasis on white jazz, it contains wonderful musical sequences, both jazz and popular, and the presence upfront of a real jazzman, Jack Teagarden, a giant of the trombone, lends an authenticity to every scene he appears in. Bing, of course, together with Louis Armstrong invented jazz singing and influenced all popular singing that followed.
My favourite scenes include the one outside the jail - the search for 'a hot cornet player' who is white (Brian Donlevy). The mores of the time didn't permit mixed black and white groups, although some brave bandleaders, notably Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, frontally challemged that discrimination. Bing's lifelong love of jazz shines through.
The scene in the cinema, where Bing offers a light popular song of the period as a sop to the cinema manager so that he can play his jazz later is the best rendition of 'By the Light of the Silvery Moon' I have ever heard. 'The Waiter and the Porter and the Upstairs Maid' is also a wonderfully crafted musical sequence which has never been bettered.
But my favourite of all is the young boy playing clarinet with a black group down on the levee at the foot of Basin Street, in spite of its eye-rolling caricatures of black musicians. The infectious lift of 'At a Georgia Camp Meeting' stayed with me all my life.
Mary Martin, later of South Pacific fame - and Larry Hagman's mum (JR of Dallas) - plays her part to perfection, especially in the scene where she persuades the stuffed-shirt club audience to dance to the jazz.
If you love cinema and you love music, you must have this film in your collection.