Too Late Blues (1962)

  • Drama, USA,1962, running time 100 minutes
  • Studio: Paramount
  • Produced and directed by: John Cassavetes
  • Screenplay by: Richard Carr and John Cassavetes
  • Music by: David Raskin
  • Cinematography by: Lionel Linden
  • Costumes by: Edith Head


Pictures of the film.

Lobby Cards from the movie.

Ghost Wakefield is a serious, dedicated jazz musician, who plays only what he wants to play. He has imbued the others of his combo with the same ideals -- Charlie, Red, Shelly and Pete. The group, filling various charity and park dates, existing on the outer fringes of the successful jazz world, is nevertheless respected for their ethics by Baby Jackson and other contemporaries.

Ghost and his gang hang out at Nick's pool hall where the temperamental, hard-headed proprietor constantly harangues them for unwillingness to face the realities of life. Ghost meets Jess Polanski, a timid and unsure vocalist at Baby Jackson's party. She is escorted by Benny Flowers, a cunning type of agent. Ghost falls in love with the girl at first sight, taking her away from Benny. Through Ghost's friendship, Jess gains courage and belief in herself.

Benny arranges an audition for Ghost's combo with Milt Freilobe of Gold Star records, Jess becomes the groups singer. A deal is closed with Freilobe, but the pay is only scale. It means Ghost must sacrifice his Blues for small money. But he's willing to do it for Jess. The boys celebrate at Nick's. This results, however in a drunken free-for-all insitigated by Benny, who works on Tommy, a customer with a innate hatred for musicians and their ways. Ghost is Tommy's target for abuse. He is suddenly frozen with fear and can't rouse himself to fight back as Tommy knocks him about. Jess, who has seen Ghost's fear, tries to comfort him, but humilated by cowardice, he curtly dismisses her.

Jess leaves hurt and distressed, accompanied by Charlie. At her apartment she asks Charlie to stay a while. While Charlie is off to the liquor store, Ghost arrives anxious to patch up their differences. But Jess orders him away. Outside, Ghost sees Charlie return and a few minutes later the lights are extinguished in Jess's room. His idealism shaken and his manhood challenged, Ghost is now on his own again, without the girl he found and reassured.

The next day, Benny comes to commiserate with Ghost about Jess's defection to Charlie. Later, at the record cutting session, Ghost announces his Blues song is not for sale. Freilobe's answer is that it's the Blues or nothing. The boys urge Ghost to accept the offer. He turns on them, dennouncing them as phonies and hangers-on. Only Charlie remains for a final friendly word.

Ghost, completing his downfall, asks Benny to make him a success. Benny introduces him to the Countess, who has a reputation for spending a fortune on the careers of good looking jazz musicians. Ghost accepts her patronage and everything that's required of it. He is beating out rank jazz before razzle-dazzle customers with little taste. His friends and fellow musicians, once admiring of his ablity, have deserted him. Even the Countess, weary of his sullen moods, speaks of him as a cheap second-rater who doesn't know what he wants.

Ghost has a showdown with Benny who puts it on the line. He may be tired of the gigalo bit, but he is still the Countess' boy. Ghost maintains he has sold out only himself, not his soul, that he is the same discerning musician. But Benny points out to him he is the worst phony of all -- talking big and loud about being an artist with freedom of expression and then sabotaging himself. Ghost calls on Nick at the pool hall. Even Nick has grown away from him. But he hears that Charlie, Red, Shelly and Pete are still together performing in a cheap little dive. He seeks the boys at their wretched night spot playing arranged and constricted oomph music. Only Charlie is friendly, telling Ghost he hasn't seen Jess in months. Ghost reveals his days of playing on swank street are at an end. He has broken with the Countess.

Later, Ghost finds Jess, a drifter and prostitute. She cannot hope to love him and attempts suicide but Ghost rescues her. She makes a final effort for Ghost before quitting his life forever. As Ghost hopefully seeks reconcilation and forgiveness from his cronies, Jess accompanies him, to watch Ghost's pleadings and the boys icy resentment and disinterest. She steps forward to sing "The Blues," Ghost's old song. It produces magical results. Ghost is soon at the piano and the group is reunited in musical harmony, playing "The Blues" with some of the old verve. As Jess departs, Ghost looks after her questionally. But it is evident the boys need him even more. Thus Ghost accepts what is and what isn't, as he turns back to the keyboard and the sounds of "The Blues" soar once more .....

Review was originally printed in the
Paramount Merchandising Manual/Press book Too Late Blues.

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