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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Restored Bing Crosby Movie Debut Screens Thursday

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Universal Pictures
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The remastered version of "King of Jazz," Bing Crosby's first feature film appearance in 1930, screens 7 p.m. Thursday at the Kenwood Theatre, 7815 Kenwood Road.

Filmed in early Technicolor, it arrived in theaters three years after Al Jolson's ""The Jazz Singer" (1927), the first feature-length "talking" picture.

"King of Jazz" showcased a variety of acts performing with bandleader Paul Whiteman in a precursor to the grand Busby Berkeley musicals in the mid 1930s. In addition to a young Crosby, "King of Jazz"  features the Rhythm Boys, John Boles, Laura LaPlannte, Jeanette Loff, Slim Summerville, Walter Brennan, and women dancers who were the forerunners to the Radio City Rockettes.  Whitman's orchestra also plays "Rhapsody in Blue," commissioned by Whiteman in 1924.

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Credit Wikipedia
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Bing Crosby in the 1930s.

Crosby started singing with Whiteman's band in 1926, and sang with the Rhythm Boys as part of Whiteman's show. He left Whiteman and the Rhythm Boys, signed a solo recording contract and made his solo radio debut in 1931.  Soon he became one of the nation's most popular singers.

"King of Jazz" was released six months after the 1929 stock market crash triggering the Great Depression. It was so expensive that Universal studios nearly went bankrupt, according to "The Broadcaster" newsletter published by Media Heritage. The screening benefits Media Heritage, Cincinnati's non-profit broadcasting archives.

Despite winning an Academy Award (for art direction), the film was cut down and re-released – without much more success at the box office. After decades in the Universal vault, the film was recently restored to its original length by archivists, the newsletter said.

Before the screening, New York-based jazz singer Barbara Rosene will perform a mini pre-show concert of 1930s songs, accompanied by pianist Dave Powers, at 7:30 p.m. The evening starts with cocktails at 6 p.m.

General admission is $25; tickets for VIP seating and a gift are $50.  Tickets are available through Eventbrite. 

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Credit Universal Pictures
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"King of Jazz" dancers.

John Kiesewetter joined the WVXU news team as a TV/Media blogger on July 1 2015, after nearly 30 years covering local and national broadcasting for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’ll be posting news about Greater Cincinnati TV, radio and movies; updating your favorite former local TV/radio personalities or stars who grew up here; and breaking news about national TV, radio and media trends. You’ll also learn about Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history.