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Film / The Glenn Miller Story

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A 1954 biopic of Glenn Miller, the American trombonist and bandleader of the 1930s and '40s, directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart as Miller and June Allyson as his wife Helen. Lots of good music throughout (including an early score by Henry Mancini) and a handful of cameos, including Louis Armstrong.

This film provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew:
    • No attempt is made to make the dress and hair styles accurate to the 1930s and 1940s.
    • Miller being in the pit orchestra for Girl Crazy is shown in the film as happening in 1932 instead of 1930 when the musical opened in real life.
    • The Miller orchestra is shown performing "Over the Rainbow" in 1937, two years before The Wizard of Oz was released.
    • In the film, the Millers adopted their two children on their 10th wedding anniversary in 1938. They were actually adopted separately in 1943 and 1944.
    • "Little Brown Jug" is first performed in the film in 1944 as a "special arrangement" for his wife. In real life, he first recorded the song in 1939 and it became one of his early hits.
    • Planes that can be spotted in backgrounds include a Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" (which only existed in top-secret prototypes at that time) and a Grumman HU-16 "Albatross" (which wasn't introduced until 1949 and didn't see action until The Korean War).
    • A V-1 bomb is shown falling on London before the announcement of D-day; in real life, it was the other way around.
    • White soldiers and black soldiers are shown marching together. Desegregation of the U.S. Army would not happen until 1948.
    • The U.K. flags are missing the Cross of St. Patrick (the diagonal red bars) which was added in 1801.
  • Artistic License: The BBC is shown as using RCA Type 44 microphones. The real BBC could not afford them and commissioned Marconi to make a cheaper version, the Type A, which became an icon of old-time British radio just like the RCA Type 44 became an icon of old-time U.S. radio.
  • Artistic License – Film Production: The Miller orchestra is shown at one point recording the music for one of their movies. They record it the same way a typical movie soundtrack would be done (match the music to the filmed scenes), but in their case it would be done the other way (film the scenes to match the music) due to the musicians needing something to mime their playing to and the dancers needing something to time their dancing to. Also, they are shown sitting away from the screen, which would obviously make syncing up their playing very hard.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • During a parade march, a few soldiers are shown wearing sunglasses, which is a breach of military conduct.
    • On a British airfield, engine nacelles holding Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone engines can be seen despite that engine not being used in any planes in the Eastern Theater of Operations in World War II.
    • When the air raid siren goes off during the "In the Mood" performance, it does so on a continuous pitch. A continuous pitch was the "all clear" signal; an actual air raid warning would waver in pitch.
  • Artistic License – Music:
    • After a trumpet player splits his lip, Miller says he has to rewrite the arrangements for clarinet. Both the trumpet and the clarinet are B flat instruments, which means a clarinetist could easily play the trumpet part as is.
    • Bobby Hackett's cornet solo on "A String of Pearls" is shown in the movie as being played by a trumpet.
    • When conducting the Army Air Force band, Miller marks the second beat by waving his hand to the right. In 4/4 time, the second beat is marked by waving to the left.
  • Biopic: The film depicts Glenn Miller's life from 1929 until his disappearance in 1944.
  • The Cameo: Quite a few jazz musicians who were friends with Miller appear in the film, such as Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa, Barney Bigard, The Modernaires and Frances Langford.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since this is a biopic, anyone who is familiar with Glenn Miller's history will know that he will disappear over the English Channel at the end of the film.
  • Rags to Riches: From poor musical arranger and trombonist selling his instrument at the pawn shop every week to making millions in record sales.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A lot of the history of Glenn Miller's orchestra is either fictionalized or made up for the sake of the story:
    • Miller coming up with his famous reed sound is depicted as a singular "eureka" moment instead of the few years it actually took him to develop that sound.
    • "Pennsylvania 6-5000" is said to be the number of a boarding house in the film instead of the number of the Hotel Pennsylvania (where Miller often performed in its Café Rouge) as in real life.
    • "Tuxedo Junction" is recorded by Miller's orchestra for one of their movies despite the song never being featured in any of them.
    • When Miller is dressed down by a superior officer for performing jazz marches, in the film he sheepishly apologizes and the jazz marches only get to stay because the children of another officer are Miller fans. In real life, in response to said superior officer telling him that Sousa's marches served the military well in World War I, Miller snarked back "Are you still flying the same planes you flew in the last war?" upon which the officer backed down.
    • Miller's Army Air Force orchestra is depicted as a standard-size dance band instead of the 40-man orchestra it was in reality.
    • Frances Langford and the Modernaires are shown in the film as performing with Miller's Army Air Force orchestra. In real life, Langford never performed with Miller and the Modernaires parted way with Miller when he dissolved his civilian orchestra.
    • Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton and Tex Beneke, the famous vocalists of Miller's civilian orchestra, do not appear in the movie at all. In Beneke's case, this was due to his acrimonious split from the Miller estate in 1950 resulting in him being written out of the script, but no reason is known for excluding Eberle and Hutton.