HOLLYWOOD: JAZZ AND FILMS, 1940s-1960s

Benny Carter brought his big band to California in 1942, opening at Billy Berg's Swing Club in Los Angeles in November. Within months, he was asked to work on his first Hollywood film, Stormy Weather, for which he arranged and played. His work, particularly his string writing, so impressed musical director Alfred Newman that soon Carter's talents were tapped for many other productions at 20th Century Fox and other major studios. Eventually, he was in such demand in the studios that he decided to give up leading his big band in 1946. Over the next two decades, he worked on (and occasionally appeared in) such major films as An American in Paris, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Sun Also Rises, The Guns of Navarone, Flower Drum Song, and many others. He eventually got the opportunity to serve as musical director for several productions including A Man Called Adam (1965) and Buck and the Preacher (1972).

In the late 1950s, Carter began to compose and arrange for television, contribution to such programs as M-Squad, Bob Hope's Chrysler Theater, Alfred Hitchcock, Ironside, and The Name of the Game. He also has written scores for several award-winning animated films by John and Faith Hubley. In 1993, Carter recorded a solo saxophone soundtrack for the Canadian television documentary: The Future of Aging.

Carter helped many other talented African-American composers to break the color barrier in the Hollywood studios. As Quincy Jones notes: "Benny opened the eyes of a lot of producers and studios, so that they could understand that you could go to blacks for other things outside of blues and barbecue." Carter also played a leading role in integrating the Los Angeles musicians' union in the 1950s.

Although much of Carter's film and television work involved dramatic scores with no jazz content, Carter maintained a fairly active career as a jazz performer. He recorded often in the 1950s for Verve and Contemporary, and for Impulse in the 1960s. He also toured occasionally with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic, and arranged and composed for other orchestras, including two landmark albums for Count Basie, and for such singers as Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Lou Rawls, and Ray Charles.

 


Musical Selection: "The Music from 'M Squad' The Lonely Beat" from Benny Carter All of Me (Soprano Sax), Bluebird 3000 (1959)

Carter with Lee Marvin, left, and Stanley Wilson on the set of M Squad television show, Universal Studios, ca. 1959. (Photo courtesy of Benny Carter) Carter with Lee Marvin, left, and Stanley Wilson on the set of "M Squad" television show, Universal Studios, ca. 1959. (Photo courtesy of Benny Carter)
Soundtrack for the 1950s-vintage police drama. Soundtrack for the 1950s-vintage police drama.
Shortly after Carter relocated permanently to Hollywood in 1942, he helped write the score of Stormy Weather. Shortly after Carter relocated permanently to Hollywood in 1942, he helped write the score of "Stormy Weather."
The music of George Gershwin that formed the basis of this 1951 film was aided by Benny Carter's skillful arrangements. The music of George Gershwin that formed the basis of this 1951 film was aided by Benny Carter's skillful arrangements.
In 1959, Carter arranged the music for jazz biographies of Red Nichols (above) and Gene Krupa. In 1959, Carter arranged the music for films about Red Nichols (above) and Gene Krupa.
A Man Called Adam (1966) represented Carter's first assignment as musical director of a theatrical film. "A Man Called Adam" (1966) represented Carter's first assignment as musical director of a theatrical film.
The music of Benny Carter and Dizzy Gillegpie was featured in this 1985 animated film by Faith about three musicians from outer space who bring a message of peace to earth.
The music of Benny Carter and Dizzy Gillespie was featured in this 1985 animated film by Faith Hubley about three musicians from outer space who bring a message of peace to earth.
Benny Carter: Eight Decades in American Music

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