Film / A Song Is Born
Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton playing "Stealin' Apples". Drummer Gene Krupa (left of Virginia Mayo), bassist Harry Babasin and pianist Mel Powell (to Virginia's right) and Louis Armstrong and Tommy Dorsey (behind Danny Kaye to his left and right, respectively) can be seen in the background.

A Song Is Born is a 1948 musical remake of the 1941 Screwball Comedy film Ball of Fire. Besides having Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo cast in the lead roles, it features an all-star cast of Jazz and Big Band music legends including Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton.

Not to be confused with A Star Is Born.

Tropes found in A Song is Born include:

  • Adorkable: Honey finds all of the professors to be this, but Frisbee especially is "a real yum-yum type."
  • Anything Can Be Music: Honey teaches the professors how to have a jam session, by having them sing lines from a racing form.
  • Apron Matron: Miss Bragg.
  • Blind Mistake: Frisbee walks into Honey's bungalow at the motel they stay at by mistake, believing it to be Prof. Oddley's, and since the lights are out and it is dark, he fails to realize his mistake and pours out the depths of his ardor to Honey, causing her to realize just how much he really loves her.
  • Bow Ties Are Cool: Frisbee wears one. Lionel Hampton also sports a bow tie.
  • Brick Joke: When Frisbee first gets "yum-yum" (a hot steamy kiss), he has to run and put cold water on the back of his neck. Later, Honey kisses him again... and this time Honey is the one that has to put cold water on the back of her neck.
  • Chekhov's Drum: The tribal drum over the conservatory door that reacts to resonant frequencies.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: At the end of the film, Frisbee jumps Snow and delivers a fury of lefts and rights to his head, as the musicians help him keep tempo with The Anvil Chorus.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The professors have this problem, especially Frisbee. The housekeeper, Miss Bragg, does not like it one bit.
  • Double Take: Satchmo, Tommy Dorsey and Charlie Barnet do one when they hear how good a clarinet player Prof. Magenbruch is.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Honey Swanson moves into the conservatory to hide out and becomes a major distraction to the professors.
  • Game Show: Buck and Bubbles introduce the professors to jazz music by asking them to help answer questions from a radio quiz show they had been listening to.
  • Gangster Land: Tony Snow, Honey Swanson and Tony's mooks all come from the crime underworld.
  • Gibberish of Love: Frisbee has a severe stutter around Honey, and it gets worse when she kisses him.
  • Grief Song: One of the professors remembers his departed wife with the song "Sweet Genevieve". The other professors join in and it becomes a bonding song.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Of sorts. Gangster Moll Honey Swanson slowly falls out of love with gangster Tony Snow and in love with nerdy professor Hobart Frisbee, and as such softens from a scheming Gold Digger to a girl with Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold.
  • Hostage Situation: Snow's gang hold the professors and the musicians hostage so they won't interfere with Snow marrying Honey.
  • Identical Stranger: Unlike most of the other musical stars playing themselves, Benny Goodman plays one of the cloistered professors, Prof. Magenbruch. At one point in the film, the musicians lament the lack of a clarinet player among them and wish that Benny Goodman could be there with them. Frisbee notes that they have a very good clarinet player among his fellow academicians that might be able to stand in... and brings in Magenbruch. (Nobody in the movie notices the resemblance, but the audience of the day got the joke.)
    Benny Goodman (as Prof. Magenbruch): You can't play without music!
    Lionel Hampton: Well, Benny Goodman used to!
  • Jive Turkey: Buck and Bubbles (and later, Honey and the other musicians) introduce the professors to a whole new way of talking, as well as new kinds of music.
  • Magical Negro: Buck and Bubbles play this role, introducing the professors to the various forms of jazz (jump, jive, boogie woogie, bebop, etc.) that have sprung up since they cloistered themselves.
  • Mating Dance: Frisbee teaches one to Miss Totten to show her what they had been working on. She really gets into it.
  • Mistaken Identity: Frisbee mistakenly believes Tony Snow is Honey's father, because of her calling him by the slang term "daddy".
  • Moll: Honey Swanson is a gangster moll on the lam.
  • Mooks: Tony Snow's goons are of the dumb muscle variety.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Despite being a tough gangster moll; Honey can't help falling for the nerdy Hobart.
  • Nice Hat: The professors all wear top hats on the way to the New Jersey "wedding".
    • Tony and his gang all wear fedoras.
  • Not Big Enough for the Two of Us: Invoked when the housekeeper lays down an ultimatum regarding Honey: "Either she goes or I go."
    Miss Bragg: The taxi is here.
    Frisbee: Taxi? What taxi?
    Miss Bragg: Hers or mine.
    Frisbee (having just received a large dose of "yum-yum"): It's all yours, Crabapple Annie.
  • One Head Taller: The height difference between Honey and Frisbee is lampshaded by the fact that she always has him get a stack of books for her to stand on before she can kiss him.
  • Orchestral Bombing: A rousing rendition of Flying Home manages to cause a drum to fall on one of the villains, knocking him out (after The Anvil Chorus failed to work as it had earlier in the film).
  • Patter Song: Remarkably averted, for a Danny Kaye film. (Danny's songwriter wife refused to write any songs for the film as they were estranged at the time, and Danny wouldn't sing any song not written by her.)
  • The Pen Is Mightier: The final conflict is resolved not by guns, but by music. (And a little fisticuffs at the end...)
  • The Professor: A house full of them, some of them absent-minded.
  • Triumphant Reprise:
    • After singing Sweet Genevieve at the motel they stop at (see Grief Song, above), the professors begin singing Gaudeamus Igitur, a traditional Ivy League graduation hymn. After defeating Snow's goons later in the film, they hum this loudly, letting Honey know they're all free and on their way to rescue her.
    • The Anvil Chorus also gets this treatment. Near the beginning of the film, the professors note that a large drum over the entrance to the music hall vibrates and falls down when they play the tune, and later they attempt to use the song to get the drum to fall again to knock out one of the goons, but switch to Flying Home when that fails. Near the end of the film, however, they use it to keep time as Frisbee beats up Tony Snow.
  • Reluctant Hero: Frisbee.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Honey is forced to marry gangster Tony Snow at gunpoint.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The inclusion of Giuseppe Verdi's Anvil Chorus may have been a silent nod to Big Band legend Glenn Miller, who had passed away in 1944. Miller had done a swing arrangement of the tune.
    • Jimmy Dorsey isn't in the film, but Tommy mentions him at one point.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Arguably, a retelling; a beautiful damsel hiding out in the home of seven odd little men.
  • Society Marches On: In-universe example: The professors have been so cloistered in their conservatory making their history of music that they've completely missed the modern music that has been evolving around them.
  • Spousal Privilege: Gangster Tony Snow's motivation for trying to force Honey to marry him is so she won't be able to testify against him about a murder he committed.
  • Spy Speak: Frisbee uses his new-found grasp of hep cat language to communicate his escape plan to the musicians near the end, in the form of Stealth Puns.
    Frisbee: "Would you boys be prepared to 'cut a rug' for this gentleman?" (nodding toward the throw rug on the floor that leads under a gangster's precariously leaning chair)
    Musicians: We dig ya, professor!