The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

Biography, Drama, Music
James Stewart, June Allyson, Harry Morgan, Charles Drake
The biography of the Bandleader Glenn Miller from his beginnings to his death over the English Channel in December 1944, with a lot of his arangements, partly in an authentic cast.
  • Universal Pictures Company:
  • Approved Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 04 Jan 1954 Released:
  • 04 Mar 2003 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Valentine Davies, Oscar Brodney Writer:
  • Anthony Mann Director:
  • N/A Website:
A Quest for a Sound8/10
The Glenn Miller Story is a biographical tribute to a man who is always ranked as one of the great swing bandleaders of the late thirties to middle forties era. It is indeed fortunate that when James Stewart puts a pair of glasses on, he does actually look like the real Glenn Miller. I don't know what Helen Miller looked like, but I'm sure she was as supportive to her husband as June Allyson was to her screen hubby.

The Miller story begins with Stewart and pal Harry Morgan on the road as musicians. Stewart plays a slide trombone and has ideas of how the orchestra should sound as a whole. He spends a lot of time writing arrangements for the entire band. When they're not done right as is graphically shown in a scene when Miller's famous Moonlight Serenade is performed, he decides to form his own band.

He's still looking for that particular sound that he wants his orchestra to have and he chances on it in one of the more interesting scenes in the film. Swing fans when they hear it will recognize it as the genuine Glenn Miller.

One glaring fault for purists though is while the instrumentals are performed nicely, the vocal part of the Miller band is left out of the film. For whatever reason singers, Ray Eberle, Marian Hutton (Betty's sister)and most of all Gordon "Tex" Beneke are not in the film. In fact Chattanooga Choo Choo, Beneke's most famous number, is performed in the film by Frances Langford as herself.

My favorite scene in the film is the nightclub scene in Harlem on the Miller wedding night. June was definitely a patient wife, but hey, if you got a chance to jam with Louis Armstrong, you drop EVERYTHING for that opportunity. Gene Krupa and other top jazz musicians are in that scene with Stewart and Satchmo, making it a real treat for jazz aficionados.

For American music we are indeed fortunate that Glenn Miller succeeded in his quest for the right sound which is so lovingly captured in this film.
excellent biopic5/10

James Stewart in one of his best roles of the 1950s playing the late bandleader in the embellished story of his life; June Allyson plays his wife – one of her best roles and I believe one of her personal favourites.

Watching the real Miller in ‘Orchestra Wives' and then watching this, Stewart is really a revelation in this role. All the hits of the band are represented – Moonlight Serenade, In The Mood, Tuxedo Junction, Chattanooga Choo-Choo, Pennsylvania 65000. Some artistic licence has been taken but the whole is funny, celebratory, and at the end fairly touching. One of the best Hollywood biopics, right in the middle of a glut of them (Love Me or Leave Me, With a Song In My Heart, The Eddy Duchin Story, Night and Day, Words and Music, Three Little Words …).
If music be the food of love, play on Glenn, play on!(after W.S.)7/10

Produced nine years after his death this is Hollywood's obituary of swing era legend Glenn Miller. Essentially a musical told around the story of his struggle to achieve musical stardom. A film that will appeal to all lovers of 1930s swing music and Glenn Miller in particular. A film also for James Stewart fans. Casting the gangling Stewart as Miller was a huge gamble that succeeded; if it had failed so would have the film. This success was due to Anthony Mann's undoubted ability as a director. The Mann-Stewart combination had already proved itself but here both were on unfamiliar territory. Mann's forte was the outdoor adventure while Stewart was a pre-war light comedy star still trying to find a new identity. Mann had earlier directed Stewart in Winchester '73(1950)and the two were to go on to further success with The Far Country (1954) and The Man from Larramie (1955). He excels himself in bringing out previously unknown talents in Stewart that make this a career best for the Actor. Clad simply in a military raincoat, a trombone to his lips and sporting a USAAF officer's peaked cap he requires no further make-up to pass himself off as the wartime Miller. Among the lesser credits is the name of an unknown Henry Mancini but this was to be his big break as at the young age of 22 he was to become an Oscar nominee (jointly with Joseph Gershenson) for musical scoring. Before joining Universal Mancini had been a piano player and arranger with the post-war "Glenn Miller Orchestra", by using musicians from this band, made up mainly of sidesmen from Miller's own bands, Mancini ensured an authentic re-creation of the seductive Miller sound that had enchanted teenagers in the years leading up to the war. Regrettably an argument with the Miller Estate prevented the participation of saxophonist Ted Beneke, who had earlier led the post-war band and was renowned for his performance of Chattanoga Choo-Choo in"SunValley Serenade" (1941). The fidelity of the sound track of Miller's music won the film an Oscar for best sound recording of a musical. After a ponderous start the film picks up pace in apparent tune with Miller's success until the last reel is a non-stop performance of Miller standards. Miller was supported throughout by his wife, Helen, sympathetically played by a cuddlesome June Allyson, who ceaselessly encouraged him when all seemed to have failed. When news of his death reaches her one immediately feels her sadness in her loss and spontaneously grieves with her. Get your hankies out! A few minor lapses mar an otherwise competent production; Miller is incongruously seen in his army raincoat an a glorious summer's day conducting his wartime band at an outdoor concert in England just after D-day while the audience and band are in standard military attire; a continuity lapse shows a German flying bomb attack taking place before D-day, 6th June, whereas the first one did not reach England until the following week. Miller's loss at the peak of popularity, flying in advance of his band to make arrangements in Paris for his Christmas concert, ensured his enduring fame. As his plane and body were never recovered the mystery of his death has added to the legend. Only in the last decade have military historians been able to piece together his last moments and pinpoint where the plane came down. Whilst crossing the English Channel in dense fog the plane, which relied entirely on a compass for navigation, wandered off course and entered a prohibited area reserved for returning Allied bombers to drop any left over bombs; it was one of these that hit the plane so bringing to its end the life of one Glenn Alton Miller. Anthony Mann's deliberately abrupt end to the film comes as a jolt and dramatically conveys the unexpected loss of the patriotic Miller in his prime - the touch of the Master. A film that has stood the test of time; part fact, part fiction, it will remain the definitive tribute to the man and his music. Good wholesome entertainment for the whole family and a must for Stewart and Miller fans.
Really, truly, one of the best!5/10

"The Glenn Miller Story" appears on cable-TV from time to time. It is an historically accurate piece about a beloved man whose music defined an era.

Miller is portrayed as a gracious and kind man -- an officer and a gentleman. We see Jimmy Stewart's affectionate portrayal of this simple man who spent his short musical career searching for a particular sound. The results got the whole world dancing to his new beat: Swing! The music in this movie will surely get you on your feet!

The driving force in Glenn Miller's life was his love for his wife, Helen, amicably played by June Allyson.

A "must-see", movie classic. Be sure to bring a hanky!
A competent musical heart warmer!8/10
It is said that Miller could never remember precisely the moment he decided to emphasize his new reed section sound... But it was during this disheartening interim, that he realized the unique sound, produced by the clarinet holding the melodic line while the tenor sax plays the same note, and supported harmonically by three other saxophones - just might be the individual and easily recognizable style that would set his band apart from all the rest...

Photographed in color, Anthony Mann's 'The Glenn Miller Story' is purely a time trip to those years, when Glenn Miller's band ruled the record charts and anchored the airwaves... The film, beautifully captured Miller's spirit and follows his life story with reasonable fidelity... It is one of the most charming and touching musical biography...

Appearing in glasses and winning grin, Stewart kisses Allyson, holding her face lightly with his fingers, the same way he detains his trombone slide... Stewart applied his natural musical expertise, playing on the trombone... Miller's style was there. The original sound was there. The real music was there. The mix was there...

The film traces Miller's romance and marriage to his college sweetheart, Helen Burger, and his progress from a free-lance trombonist and arranger to band leader...

The pop music styles of '20s sweet and jazz bands were getting ready for the Big Band or Swing era of the '30s... About this time, Miller began writing charts that would one day to be his band's stock in fame, the clarinet "lead" sound over the saxophones... Miller's imagination, strong will, and determination kept his aspirations alive.. His music, a careful mixture of swing, jazz, and improvisation, flowed like spring with matchless string of hit records ( "Moonlight Serenade," "String of Pearls," "Pennsylvania 6-5000", "Little Brown Jug," "In the Mood," & "Chattanooga Choo Choo," among others...

The constant impact of radio broadcasts, and the drawing power at dance pavilions built and sustained the momentum of Miller's popularity...

June Allyson, who regularly played the little, lip-quivering waiting wife, again she is the petite and husky-voiced woman who, once married, is supportive and inspirational.. She finances Glenn what he needs to start his own band... Her scenes with Stewart have such a natural, easy-going on the screen, that we get completely drawn into their lives... Also featuring in the film are such legendary figures as Frances Langford, Gene Krupa, and Louis Armstrong...

With its unique jazz sound, 'The Glenn Miller Story' is a competent musical heart warmer with a well-cast star and successful reproduction of the Miller sound...