Oscar Movies: Five Pennies (1959)

In a rare straight role, Danny Kaye plays the influential jazz musician Red Nichols, played here by a remarkably straight-faced Danny Kaye.

The romanticized biopic chronicles Nichols’ rise from obscurity, describing the future bandleaders who would play with Nichols’ “Five Pennies,” as well as his self-destructive streak and inability to change

A subplot concerns Nichols’ physically impaired daughter Dorothy, played by Susan Gordon as a child and by Tuesday Weld (in her debut) as a young woman.

Nichols’s long-suffering wife is portrayed by Barbara Bel Geddes, better known for her performance in Hitchcock’s Vertigo the year before.

The musical numbers elevate the sentimental biopic, especially Danny Kaye’s duet with Louis Armstrong.

Among the real-life musicians in the supporting cast are Bob Crosby, Ray Anthony, Shelly Manne, and, as Jimmy Dorsey, Bobby Troup.

Oscar Nominations: 4

Cinematography (color): Daniel L. Fapp

Costume Design (color): Edith Head

Scoring of musical: Leith Stevens

Song: The Five Pennies, music and lyrics Sylvia Fine

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

Ben-Hur won the Cinematography Oscar for Robert Surtees and Costumes Oscar for Elizabeth Haffendedn.

Porgy and Bess won the Scoring Oscar for Andre Previn and Porgy and Bess


Running time: 117 minutes.

Directed by Melville Shavelson

Written by Melville Shavelson and Jack Rose

DVD: December 13, 2005