GenreBiography, Drama, Music Duration LanguageEnglish
Release date1959 (1959) WriterJack Rose (screenplay), Melville Shavelson (screenplay), Robert Smith (story), Red Nichols (suggested by the life of) Initial releaseJune 18, 1959 (New York City) Music directorSylvia Fine, Leith Stevens CastDanny Kaye (Ernest Loring Nichols), Barbara Bel Geddes (Wila Stutsman), Louis Armstrong (Himself), Harry Guardino (Tony Valani), Bob Crosby (Wil Paradise), Bobby Troup (Artie Schutt) Similar moviesThe Jazz Singer (1952)
The five pennies trailer
The Five Pennies is a semi-biographical 1959 film starring Danny Kaye as cornet player and bandleader Loring Red Nichols. Other cast members include Barbara Bel Geddes, Louis Armstrong, Harry Guardino, Bob Crosby, Bobby Troup, Susan Gordon, and Tuesday Weld. The film was directed by Melville Shavelson.
The film received four Oscar nominations: Best Musical Scoring (Leith Stevens), Best Original Song (Sylvia Fine—Danny Kaye's wife), Best Cinematography (Daniel L. Fapp), and Best Costumes (Edith Head).
The real Red Nichols recorded all of Kaye's cornet playing for the film soundtrack. The other musicians in Red's band were not asked to provide their musical contributions, and the sound of his band was supplied by session players.
Red Nichols (Kaye) is a small-town cornet player who moves to New York City in the 1920s and finds work in a band led by Wil Paradise (Crosby). He meets and marries singer Willia Stutsman, a.k.a. "Bobbie Meredith" (Bel Geddes), and the two form their own Dixieland band called "The Five Pennies" (a play on Nichols' name, since a nickel equals five pennies). As their popularity peaks, their young daughter Dorothy (Susan Gordon) contracts polio, and the family leaves the music business, moving to Los Angeles.
As a teenager, Dorothy (Tuesday Weld) learns of her father's music career and persuades him go on a comeback tour. The tour borders on failure until several notable musicians from Nichols' past appear to save the day.