VIDEO: FRANKIE MANNING

FRANKIE MANNING (1914-2009)

Frankie Manning was a swing-era dance pioneer, who became a master of the Lindy Hop and ultimately revolutionized it with his innovations, including the lindy air step and synchronized ensemble lindy routine.

He began his career in the 1930s in Harlem, as one of the featured dancers at the Savoy Ballroom, and was soon hired as a contract dancer at the famed Cotton Club. He was friends with some of the greatest jazz musicians and singers, including Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Webb, Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

Manning was also a charter member of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, a dance performance team that performed all over and in movies, like Hellzapoppin’ (1941). His dancing brilliance took him on tours of Europe, New Zealand and Australia.


Frankie Manning and Ann Johnson in 1941

Frankie Manning & Ann Johnson in 1941

Frankie Manning was interviewed shortly before his death for the film THE SAVOY KING. We are grateful to have some wonderful footage of him to include in the final picture.
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GIANTS COME IN ALL SIZES

“If Chick Webb’s story had been a novel, filmmakers would have lined up to option it. Through genius and a fabled will, Chick became a true titan in American music. In telling this remarkable story of an indispensable man, The Savoy King promises to be one of the great musical documentaries of our time.”
~Jazz & Film Critic, Gary Giddins

The Savoy Ballroom was the home of the amazing Lindy Hop dancers, and the first venue in America where Blacks and Whites could dance and socialize together. It had a huge, but largely unheralded social impact. Born fatherless and poor, Chick Webb broke his back, developed spinal tuberculosis, and was a hunchbacked dwarf in constant pain, yet he virtually invented modern drumming and built the hottest band of the 1930s (it was the Savoy Ballroom’s “house band”). Chick was mentored by Duke Ellington, toured with Louis Armstrong, argued with Jelly Roll Morton, jammed with Artie Shaw, married a beautiful dancer, discovered and practically adopted Ella Fitzgerald, beat Benny Goodman and Count Basie in legendary battle of the bands, befriended Mario Bauzá (“The Father of Afro-Cuban Jazz”), groomed and then fired Louis Jordan (the founder of Rhythm & Blues), encouraged a struggling Dizzy Gillespie, and helmed the first Black band to host a national radio show…all before drumming himself to death at age 30.
Chick Webb 1935
Chick’s brief, inspiring life illuminates the society-changing power of music, the life-lifting effect of mentoring, a hard-fought breakthrough in racial understanding that reverberates today in many ways, and the ability of everyone (with or without disabilities) to reach beyond their apparent limits.

FEATURING THE VOICES OF:
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Dizzy Gillespie
  • New Orleans musician Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes as Barney Bigard
  • Rocky Carroll as Narrator
  • Bill Cosby as Chick Webb
  • Billy Crystal as Mezz Mezzrow
  • Tyne Daly as Jazz publicist Helen Oakley Dance
  • Keith David as The Savoy Ballroom’s Manager, Charles Buchanan
  • Andy Garcia as Mario Bauzá
  • Danny Glover as Count Basie
  • Jeff Goldblum as Artie Shaw
  • Janet Jackson as Ella Fitzgerald
  • John Legend as Duke Ellington
  • Ron Perlman as Gene Krupa
  • Voza Rivers as Sandy Williams
  • Washington Post Columnist, Eugene Robinson as Teddy McRae
  • Rolling Stones Drummer, Charlie Watts as Jazz Journalist, Stanley Dance

NEWLY FILMED INTERVIEWS!

Drumming legend Louie Bellson (with his last filmed drum performance), drumming great Roy Haynes (among other things, he does a charming scat version of A-Tisket, A-Tasket), trumpeter / NEA Jazz Master Joe Wilder, playwright-actress Gertrude Jeannette, Swing dance masters Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, Harlem Rens basketball star John Issacs, composer-arranger Van Alexander, longtime Harlem physician Dr. Muriel Petioni, childhood friend Rev. Edward Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald’s son Ray Brown Jr., the son of the Savoy Ballroom’s owner – Dr. Rchard Gale, and Chick’s jazz-loving nephew Brad Rowe.

Stay tuned to learn more about the story of the Savoy Ballroom & its King, Chick Webb. Chick Webb (1905-1939) was one of the greatest jazzband leaders & drummers of the 1930s.

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ABOUT THE FILM

“The Savoy King: Chick Webb & The Music That Changed America”

(Now in post-production …)

“If Chick Webb’s story had been a novel, filmmakers would have lined up to option it. Through genius and a fabled will, Chick became a true titan in American music. In telling this remarkable story of an indispensable man, Jeff Kaufman promises to make one of the great musical documentaries of our time.”
~ Music and film critic Gary Giddins

A feature documentary on Swing-era drummer-bandleader Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, and Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. Produced in partnership with The New Heritage Theatre Group (New York’s oldest non-profit Black theater), The Savoy King weaves together newly filmed stories from remarkable people who knew Chick at every phase of his life, with quotes from some of the greatest figures in Jazz history. Bill Cosby is voicing the words of Chick Webb, Tyne Daly is the voice of Jazz publicist Helen Oakley Dance, Ron Perlman is Gene Krupa, Andy Garcia is Mario Bauzá, and Danny Glover is Count Basie.

chick webb at drumsThe Savoy Ballroom was the home of the amazing Lindy Hop dancers, and the first venue in America where Blacks and Whites could dance and socialize together. It had a huge, but largely unheralded social impact. Born fatherless and poor, Chick Webb developed spinal tuberculosis and was a hunchbacked dwarf in constant pain, yet he virtually invented modern drumming and built the hottest band of the 1930s (it was the Savoy Ballroom’s “house band”).

Chick was mentored by Duke Ellington, toured with Louis Armstrong, argued with Jelly Roll Morton, jammed with Artie Shaw, married a beautiful dancer, discovered and practically adopted Ella Fitzgerald, beat Benny Goodman and Count Basie in legendary battle of the bands, befriended Mario Bauzá (“The Father of Afro-Cuban Jazz”), encouraged a struggling Dizzy Gillespie, and helmed the first Black band to host a national radio show . . . all before drumming himself to death at age 30.

We’ve been privileged to film with people who could each could warrant their own documentary. They include: drummers Louie Bellson and Roy Haynes, trumpeter Joe Wilder, playwright-actress Gertrude Jeannette, Swing dance masters Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, Harlem Rens basketball star John Issacs, composer-arranger Van Alexander, longtime Harlem physician Dr. Muriel Petioni, and childhood friend Rev. Edward Wilson, Ella’s son Ray Brown Jr., the son of the Savoy Ballroom’s owner Dr. Richard Gale, and Chick’s jazz-loving nephew Brad Rowe.

Chick’s brief, inspiring life illuminates the society-changing power of music, the life-lifting effect of mentoring, a hard-fought breakthrough in racial understanding that reverberates today in many ways, and the ability of everyone (with or without disabilities) to reach beyond their apparent limits.

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