Young Man With a Horn
Based on Dorothy Baker’s novel, a trumpeter loves jazz so much he has trouble earning a living and getting along with people.
Piano player Smoke Willoughby (Hoagy Carmichael) tells the story of Rick Martin. The boy Rick (Orley Lindgren) wanders into a church to hear the singing and learns to play piano. Rick gets a job to buy a trumpet. He listens to jazz trumpeter Art Hazzard (Juano Hernandez), who teaches him.
Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas) plays in a band and for himself. Art tells him he is going to New York. Martin gets a good job playing for Jack Chandler (Walter Reed) and meets Smoke. Chandler tells Martin not to improvise, and Jo Jordan (Doris Day) sings “The Very Thought of You.” Jo talks with Martin. Chandler gets jealous and fires Martin for playing jazz with Smoke. Jo tries to help, but Martin says goodbye.
Smoke goes with Martin, and they sing in the car. Gangsters bully them, and Martin slugs one. Smoke goes home to Indiana.
Martin hears Jo singing “Too Marvelous for Words.” They go to see Art, who asks Martin to play. Phil Morrison (Jerome Cowan) hires Martin for his orchestra. After work Martin plays for free with Art. Jo introduces Amy North (Lauren Bacall) to Martin. Jo sings “I May Be Wrong.” Martin drives Amy home, and they have a drink. Amy is studying psychiatry and hates her father who is a doctor. She says her mother killed herself.
Martin tells Amy he is in love with her. He shows her his apartment and kisses her. Amy warns him and tells him to take her home. He suggests she take a taxi. She leaves but hears his trumpet and goes back.
Jo calls on Martin and says Amy is wrong for him. Amy walks in, and Martin says they just got married.
In Amy’s apartment Martin plays Art’s records. Amy says she is going back to school. They have different schedules. Martin wants to talk and neglects Art but misses Amy. Martin drinks, and Art comes in. Martin says he can’t carry him. Art walks out and is hit by a car. Smoke tells Martin, who goes to visit Art; but he is too late. Martin goes home, and Amy apologizes. She says she flunked her finals. Martin asks why she married him. Amy envies him.
Martin attends Art’s funeral and plays his trumpet. Martin arrives late at Amy’s party as people are leaving. Amy gets angry and breaks his records. Martin says she is sick and leaves.
Morrison reprimands Martin for drinking. Martin quits and plays jazz with Smoke. Martin says they should make records, but Smoke says they won’t sell. In a studio Jo sings “With a Song in My Heart,” but Martin stops playing. Martin tells Jo to give his trumpet away. Martin smashes his trumpet and cries.
Martin wanders aimlessly. He buys a broken trumpet and falls down in the street. A cab driver picks him up. Smoke is called to a sanitarium, where Martin has pneumonia. Smoke calls Amy, Jo, and an ambulance. Jo comes to comfort Martin.
Smoke says that Martin learned how to be a human being first and then an artist. In the final scene Martin plays while Jo sings.
This musical drama celebrates the artistry of jazz that only musicians seem to appreciate while showing that a talented musician also needs to learn how to relate to people.