For the Love of Jazz in B flat “The Artie Shaw Story”

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Sunn Classic Pictures, Inc. (“Sunn”) announced today that it has acquired all rights related to the motion picture, television and all other ancillary rights related to the life story of bandleader and composer Artie Shaw.

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Sunn Classic Pictures, Inc. (“Sunn”) announced today that it has acquired all rights related to the motion picture, television and all other ancillary rights related to the life story of bandleader and composer Artie Shaw, which was negotiated with Shaw’s estate entertainment attorney A. Edward Ezor. Shaw, known as having the Golden Clarinet and being the King of Swing, sold over 100 million records during his career.

“Sunn” has also secured the rights to use Artie Shaw’s musical library, which consists of hundreds of his digitally re-mastered songs. Hugh Kelley and Lang Elliott will write the screenplay which will go into development immediately. The story will focus primarily on the nostalgic years of Hollywood, the glamour stars, the period music, WWII and the influence that Artie Shaw’s music had on later contemporary artists such as: Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, The Righteous Brothers, The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Darin, Four Tops, The Isley Brothers, Smokey Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and many others.

Artie Shaw (born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky on May 23, 1910) was an American jazz clarinetist, composer and bandleader. Shaw grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, where, at the early age of 13, he began learning the saxophone. By age 16, Shaw switched to the clarinet and left home to tour with a band. Arriving in New York, he became a session musician through the early 1930s. From 1925 until 1936, Shaw performed with many bands and orchestras, including those of Johnny Caverello and Austin Wylie. Shaw’s later arrangements incorporated symphonic music, which stemmed from his 1929 and 1930 inclusion in Irving Aaronson’s group, the Commanders.

Shaw first gained critical acclaim in 1935 at a swing concert at the Imperial Theater in New York with his “Interlude in B-flat.” During the swing era, Shaw’s big band was popular with hits like “Begin the Beguine” (1938), “Stardust” (with a trumpet solo by Billy Butterfield), “Back Bay Shuffle,” “Moonglow,” “Rosalie” and “Frenesi.” He was an innovator in the big band idiom, using unusual instrumentation. Shaw was backed with only a rhythm section and a string quartet when he performed “Interlude in B-flat.”

In addition to hiring Buddy Rich, “the world’s greatest drummer,” Shaw also signed Billie Holiday as his band’s vocalist in 1938; becoming the first white bandleader to hire a full-time black female singer to tour the segregated southern United States. Ms. Holiday, together with her partner Lester Young, influenced jazz and pop singing with such songs as: “God Bless the Child,” “Don’t Explain,” “Lady Sings the Blues” and many others. However, she left the band due to hostility from audiences in the South, as well as from music company executives who wanted a more “mainstream” singer. Shaw’s band became enormously successful, and his playing was eventually recognized at least as equal to and in most circles better musically then that of bandleader Benny Goodman.

Despite a string of hits which sold more than 100 million records, Shaw prized innovation and exploration in music more highly than popular success and formulaic dance music. He fused jazz with classical music by adding strings to his arrangements, experimented with bebop, and formed “chamber jazz” groups that utilized such novel sounds as harpsichords and Afro-Cuban music.
Shaw formed a long series of musical groups including such talents as: vocalists Helen Forrest (one of the most popular female vocalists during the Big Band era); Mel Tormé (nicknamed The Velvet Fog); Drummers Buddy Rich and Dave Tough; guitarists Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney and Tal Farlow; and trombonist-arranger Ray Conniff; among countless others. . A singer in his own right, Shaw also co-wrote “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire.” For his personal theme, Shaw composed the morose “Nightmare,” with its Hassidic nuances. In a 1970s televised interview, Shaw derided the often “asinine” songs that bands were compelled to play night after night. In 1994, he told Frank Prial (“The New York Times”), “I thought that because I was Artie Shaw I could do what I wanted, but all they wanted was ‘Begin the Beguine’.”

During World War II, Shaw enlisted in the United States Navy and later formed a band, which served in the Pacific theater (similar to Glenn Miller’s wartime band in Europe). After playing for Navy personnel for 18 months (sometimes as many as four concerts a day in battle zones, including Guadalcanal), Shaw returned to the U.S. in a state of physical exhaustion and received a medical discharge. In the late 1940s, Shaw performed classical music at Carnegie Hall and with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein.

Like Benny Goodman and other leaders of big bands, Shaw fashioned a small group from within the band, which he named the Gramercy Five, after his home telephone exchange. Band pianist Johnny Guarneri played a harpsichord on the quintet recordings and Al Hendrickson played an electric guitar, which was unusual in jazz recordings of the time. Trumpeter Roy Eldridge later became part of the group, succeeding Billy Butterfield. The Gramercy Five’s biggest hit was “Summit Ridge Drive.” A CD of The Complete Gramercy Five sessions was released in 1990.

Shaw would quit the music business and take sabbaticals throughout his career. One of these sabbaticals included studying advanced mathematics, as cited in Karl Sabbagh’s “The Riemann Hypothesis.” His first interregnum, at the height of his success, was met with disbelief by booking agents. They predicted that Shaw would not only be abandoning a million-dollar enterprise but that nightclub and theater owners would sue him for breach of contract. Shaw’s offhand response was, “Tell ’em I’m insane. A nice, young American boy walking away from a million dollars, wouldn’t you call that insane?”

In 1954, Shaw stopped playing the clarinet, citing his own perfectionism, which, he later said, would have killed him. In 1981, he organized a new Artie Shaw Orchestra with clarinetist Dick Johnson as bandleader and soloist. Shaw himself guest conducted from time to time, ending his self-imposed retirement.

After Canadian filmmaker Brigitte Berman interviewed Shaw, Hoagy Carmichael, Doc Cheatham and others for her documentary film Bix: “Ain’t None of Them Play Like Him Yet” (1981) about Bix Beiderbecke, she went on to create an Academy Award-winning documentary, Artie Shaw: “Time Is All You’ve Got” (1985), featuring her interviews with Shaw, Buddy Rich, Mel Tormé, Helen Forrest and others.

In 1991, Artie Shaw’s musical materials and awards were donated to the University Of Arizona School Of Music. In 2004, he was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

A self-proclaimed “very difficult man,” Shaw was married eight times: (1) Jane Cairns (1932–33). (2) Margaret Allen (1934–37). (3) Actress Lana Turner (1940), an American actress under contract to MGM, who starred in many films such as “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” “Ziegfeld Girl,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Peyton Place” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress. (4) Betty Kern (1942–43), the daughter of songwriter Jerome Kern. (5) Actress Ava Gardner (1945–46), also under contract to MGM. Ms. Gardner was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for “Mogambo.” Some of her other films included “The Night Of The Iguana,” “Earthquake” and “The Cassandra Crossing.” Besides being marred to Artie Shaw she was married to Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney and Howard Hughes. Ava Gardner was known as a “man-eater” and, while married to Howard Hughes, he dislocated her jaw and she felled him with a marble ashtray. She thought she had killed him and apparently didn’t care. (6) Kathleen Winsor, who authored “Forever Amber” (1946–48). (7) Actress Doris Dowling (1952–56), a chorus-girl on Broadway later starred with Ray Milland in “The Lost Weekend.” She followed up in the Best Picture-winning film for the Oscar entitled: “The Blue Dahlia,” which starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. (8) Actress Evelyn Keyes (1957–85), best known for her role as Suellen O’Hara (sister to Scarlett O’Hara) in the l929 film “Gone With The Wind.” Keyes was under contract to Cecil B. DeMille and did a series of films at Paramount Pictures Studio. Later Keyes appeared in “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” “The Al Jolson Story” and “The Seven Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe.

Artie Shaw was attracted to some of the most beautiful and talented women of the Silver Screen. He dated such stars as Denise Parker, Joan Crawford, Lena Horne, Paulette Goddard, Jane Carns, Margaret Allen, Better Grable, Judy Garland, Yvonne De Carlo, Peggy Maley, Olivia Johnson, Lina Romay and many others. Other stars who also dated these ladies included Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks, Glenn Miller, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, Ronald Reagan, Cary Grant and Howard Hughes. Shaw worked and socialized with many of these stars including Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra.

In 1946, Shaw was present at a meeting of the Independent Citizens’ Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions. Olivia de Havilland and Ronald Reagan, part of a core group of actors and artists who were trying to sway the organization away from communism, presented an anti-communist declaration which, if signed, was to run in newspapers. There was bedlam as many rose to champion the communist cause, and Artie Shaw began praising the democratic standards of the Soviet constitution. In 1953, Shaw was brought up before the House Un-American Activities Committee for his leftist activities. The committee was investigating a peace activist organization, the World Peace Congress, which it considered a communist front.

Shaw did many big band remotes, and he was often heard from the Blue Room of New York’s Hotel Lincoln. It was the location of his only regular radio series as headliner. Sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes, Shaw broadcast on CBS from November 20, 1938 until November 14, 1939.

At the height of his popularity, Shaw reportedly earned $60,000 per week. For a comparison, George Burns and Gracie Allen were each making US $5,000 per week during the year. The Artie Shaw Orchestra provided the music for their radio show. Shaw also acted on the show as a love interest for Gracie Allen. Burns and Allen first made it into radio as the comedy relief. Prior to radio they had been working as a husband and wife vaudeville team. After the death of Gracie Allen, George Burns went on to have a motion picture career in such films as “Oh God.”

Shaw’s recording of “Nightmare” was used as the theme soundtrack for BBC Radio’s adaptation of the Philip Marlowe novels by Raymond Chandler.

Shaw made several musical shorts in 1939 for Vitaphone and Paramount Pictures, and he portrayed himself in the Fred Astaire film “Second Chorus” (1940), which featured Shaw and his orchestra playing “Concerto for Clarinet.” The film brought him two Oscar nominations, for Best Score and Best Song (“Love of My Life”). He collaborated on the love song “If It’s You” sung by Tony Martin in the Marx Brothers’ film, “The Big Store” (1941). In 1950, he was a mystery guest on “What’s My Line?" And during the 1970s he made appearances on The Mike Douglas Show and The Tonight Show.

Many of his recordings have been used in motion pictures. His recording of “Stardust” was used in its entirety in the closing credits of the film “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” Also, Martin Scorsese used the Shaw theme song, “Nightmare,” in his Academy Award-winning Howard Hughes biopic, “The Aviator.” Shaw is mentioned in the CBS television show “NCIS” by Ernie Yost, the fictional Medal of Honor recipient, in the episode “Call of Silence.”

Shaw credited his time in the Navy as a period of renewed introspection. He entered psychoanalysis and began to pursue a writing career. His autobiography, “The Trouble With Cinderella: An Outline of Identity” was published in 1952 (with later reprint editions in 1992 and 2001). Revealing downbeat elements of the music business, Shaw explained that “The Trouble With Cinderella” is “nobody ever lives happily ever after.” He turned to semi-autobiographical fiction with the three short novels in “I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead!” (1965, reprinted in 1997), which prompted Terry Southern’s comment: “Here is a deeply probing examination of the American marital scene. I flipped over it! Shaw’s short stories, including “Snow White in Harlem,” were collected in “The Best of Intentions and Other Stories” (1989).

Sunn Classic Pictures, Inc. is a motion picture, television, cable, home video and DVD producer and distributor. Created in the mid ’70s, “Sunn” owns interest in a library of films and television series which includes “Grizzly Adams.” “Sunn” also distributes a number of films and has developed “Pinocchio In The Hood,” a live action musical adventure; “Dorf: USMC” based on the Dorf character created by Tim Conway (i.e., “Dorf On Golf”). Both screenplays are written by Hugh Kelley and Lang Elliott. Production is scheduled for 2011. For more information on “Sunn,” please visit its corporate web site at: http://www.SunnClassicPicturesInc.com

Press Contact:
Judy Garland / Judy Garland & Associates
Telephone: 310-376-1337
Fax: 310-376-9606
E-mail: TotoOfOz(at)aol(dot)com

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