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‘The Glenn Miller Story’ (1954) | National Catholic Register

Glenn Miller and my dad taught me a lesson: it’s not just talent that produces inspiring music, it’s love.

Many Jimmy Stewart films are widely known and loved for many good reasons. For millions of people, It’s a wonderful life Mr. Smith goes to Washington and Harvey are the preferred views. But there’s another Jimmy Stewart movie you might have missed. It’s a rags-to-riches musical called Glenn Miller’s Story.

At the opening of the film, we see Glenn buying his trombone from a pawnshop, and we think he has already played it several times. Glenn is a trombonist by profession, but he aspires to become a successful musical arranger. The problem is that no one else – not even his closest friend – seems to believe in his dream.

We also learn that Glenn has a love interest in Denver named Helen Burger. On their first date in two years, Glenn explains to Helen his desire to find the “right sound” for his arrangements. Helen believes in a world of skeptics: she is convinced that he will find the sound.

Another two years pass, during which Glenn struggles – working on arrangements by day and playing the trombone at night to pay the bills. Glenn calls Helen, and they quickly decide to get married. But with his new responsibilities as a husband, Glenn settles into his trombone career, opting for a stable income rather than pursuing his greatest ambitions. He doesn’t even talk about his dream anymore.

But Helen takes notice. She challenges him: “Do you know that since we got married, you never mentioned that sound? To tell you the truth, Glenn, I was a little disappointed. …I just want you to keep trying.

Glenn reminds her that pursuing this sound will be costly – financially and otherwise. But she believes in him and urges him to continue. For her, it is much more important than money or goods. Glenn accepts and returns to work as an arranger, eventually creating his own band.

Although other difficulties, tragedies and obstacles present themselves, Glenn finds this “sound”, almost accidentally. And Helen knows he has discovered it: “There is no perhaps about it,” she assures her friend, “it’s the sound! Suddenly, all of America is listening and dancing, and couples are falling in love with Moonlight Serenade.

After Glenn’s band rose to fame, World War II arrived and Glenn noted that the young men who loved his music were now away from home fighting a war. But when the soldiers couldn’t get home, Miller drove them home. Miller enlists in the army and performs for American heroes overseas.

I don’t want to say more about the story, especially if readers are unfamiliar with Miller’s biography. Suffice it to say, it’s a story of perseverance, friendship and bravery.

Helen Miller illustrates that perseverance is the kind of virtue that can be lent and can be borrowed. Sometimes you have to believe in someone until they are ready to believe in themselves. It has been observed that “a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it to you when you have forgotten the lyrics”. When that man’s friend is his wife… well, some pretty wonderful things can happen.

Growing up, I watched this movie many times with my father, who was himself a trombone player, music composer, and veteran. On the evenings when he played the piano for his family – which was often the case – he liked to sing a song he had composed for his bride during their engagement. He had arranged it decades before, but he sang it as if he had written it that morning.

Glenn Miller and my dad taught me a lesson: it’s not just Talent that produces inspiring music – it’s to like.

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, many families will be looking for movies to watch together. Consider this Jimmy Stewart classic. It will bring back fond memories for grandparents and create new ones for children. As Boethius observed, “No age is excluded from the charm of a sweet song.”