Really, I'll take The Glenn Miller Story, which long ago drew up the blueprint and set the standard for this sort of thing. It's got all the familiar elements: Glenn struggles early on, even pawning his trombone, takes unsatisfying jobs in other people's bands, hangs out with Colonel Potter, then has a spark of inspiration, finds a core of trusted mates to believe in (and bankroll) him, hits it big, buys a big house, marries the girl of his dreams, writes a bunch of hits based directly on his life, gets addicted to smack, and...
OK, he didn't get addicted to smack. They didn't do that back then, or at least they didn't make movies where that happened. What happens instead is that he joins the Air Force during WWII, and gets shot down over Europe traveling between shows ("gigs," as the hep cats refer to them), thus establishing a precedent observed by stars of all genres such as Buddy Holly, Jim Croce, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and my favorite star on all the K-Tel compilations, Manny More.
I really like the way Glenn's death is handled in the film. He shares one last meaningful, playful phone call with his sweetheart, then climbs into the plane and it just sort of ... vanishes ... into the clouds, in a sort of apotheosis. They don't make 'em like that any more.
They do, however, follow all of the other standard plot points established way back in the 1940s. I'm waiting for the Kraftwerk movie, which will probably never be made, so I've been watching a bunch of the others recently. (There's a bunch more I haven't actually seen, but that's not gonna stop me from writing about them.) Here's a rundown:
Movie: Walk The Line
Performer: Johnny Cash
Original Musical Style: Cornpone Country/Nascent Rock 'n Roll
Musical Innovation: Jerry-rigging Confessional Folk/Singer-Songwriter to Rhinestone Country
Image: Man in Black
Died As: Beloved American Icon / Pale Imitation of Former Self
Glib Summary: In which a simple country boy uses his unique musical gift to escape a life of rural despair marred by tragedy, only to lapse into paralyzing drug abuse and marital infidelity, before finally being redeemed by the love of a good woman and becoming an American icon in the process.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Ring Of Fire
Performer: Ray Charles
Original Musical Style: Copycat R&B (Nat King Cole, Charles Brown, etc.)
Drug: Heroin, believe it or not
Musical Innovation: Shotgun wedding of gospel & R&B
Image: Black Man in Sunglasses (pre-Stevie Wonder)
Died As: Beloved American Icon / Pale Imitation of Former Self
Glib Summary: In which a simple country boy uses his unique musical gift to escape a life of rural despair marred by tragedy, only to lapse into paralyzing drug abuse and marital infidelity, before finally being redeemed by the love of a good woman and becoming an American icon in the process. Oh, and he's blind.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Hit The Road, Jack
Movie: Great Balls Of Fire
Performer: Jerry Lee Lewis
Original Musical Style: Backwoods R&B
Drug: Teenage girls
Musical Innovation: Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.
Image: The Killer
Died As: You can't kill The Killer.
Glib Summary: Dennis Quaid is way too nice to play JLL. At least he used to be before he aged a bit and started taking oily roles in stuff like Traffic and Far From Heaven.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
Movie: Sweet Dreams
Performer: Patsy Cline
Original Musical Style: Both kinds -- country, and western.
Drug: Fringe jackets
Musical Innovation: Polished Country & Western
Image: Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Died As: Beloved Crossover Country Star Killed in Tragic Plane Crash (Pre-John Denver)
Glib Summary: Yeah, I didn't actually get around to watching this one. Rented it and had it on the shelf for a week, but... eh. Jessica Lange, though.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Didn't see it, but I'm guessing Crazy.
Movie: La Vie En Rose
Performer: Edith Piaf
Original Musical Style: Gutter sluts of 1933.
Drug: Veuve Clicquot, morphine
Musical Innovation: Chansons de la rue, pour les bourgeios.
Image: Jean d'Arc in a black frock.
Died As: Everything cool about rock and roll -- the drugs, the affairs, the nervous breakdowns, the burial in Père Lachaise -- without the actual rock and/or roll.
Glib Summary: La vie, l'amour, la mort.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien
Movie: I'm Not There
Performer: Bob Dylan
Instrument: Guitar (Acoustic, then Electric) and God-awful screeching harmonica
Original Musical Style: Copycat Folk (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, etc.)
Drug: Marijuana, etc.
Musical Innovation: Letting other people do better versions of songs he wrote.
Image: Jewish Guy in Sunglasses (pre-Lou Reed) / Judas
Died As: Pending
Glib Summary: Todd Haynes almost makes amends for his hatchet job on David Bowie. This actually broke the mold, being a cubist portrait of the man, the myth, the legend, rather than another standard rags to riches saga. Dylan means nothing to me, except as the guy in the Traveling Wilburys who can't sing, but I enjoyed this quite a bit.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Like A Rolling Stone
Performer: Ian Curtis
Instrument: Vocals (overproduced by Martin Hannett)
Original Musical Style: Copycat Iggy Pop
Drug: Prescription meds for epilepsy
Musical Innovation: Burroughs and Ballard re-done as minimalist metallic pseudo-fascist battle hymns.
Image: Post-punk British Jim Morrison
Died As: Tragic, Haunting Suicide Symbolizing Premature End of Promising Generation (pre-Kurt Cobain)
Glib Summary: I'm a big fan, but this was a pretty dreary affair. Fortunately, 24 Hour Party People tells much of the same story with better drugs and a whole lot more breeziness.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Love Will Tear Us Apart
Movie: Beyond The Sea
Original Musical Style: Made to order pseudo-rock 'n roll novelty songs...eh, you know what? I already covered this one.
Movie: La Bamba
Performer: Richie Valens
Instrument: Una Poca De Gracia
Original Musical Style: No idea.
Musical Innovation: Kid Friendly Tex-Mex (much like Chili's restaurants)
Image: Non-threatening Hispanic guy (non-Ricky Ricardo division)
Died As: Other guy in plane with Buddy Holly and that Bopper guy
Glib Summary: Yeah, I didn't see this one either. It was a big hit, though.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Probably Donna.
Movie: What's Love Got To Do With It?
Performer: Tina Turner
Instrument: Screech/blond wig
Original Musical Style: Whatever Ike says.
Musical Innovation: Getting away from Ike.
Image: Gypsy, acid queen.
Died As: N/A
Glib Summary: I only watched bits and pieces of this one.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Um, Proud Mary?
Performer: Charlie Parker
Original Musical Style: Bop
Musical Innovation: Be-bop
Image: Cool jazz guy
Died As: Early demonstration of maxim "It's better to burn out than to fade away."
Glib Summary: Saw some of this one. Forest Whitaker sure was good in The Last King of Scotland, though.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: It's jazz; all the songs sound the same.
Movie: Sid & Nancy
Performer: Sid Vicious
Instrument: Leather jacket
Original Musical Style: Jumping up and down in front of the stage
Drug: (yawn) Heroin
Musical Innovation: Jumping up and down on the stage
Image: Glorious Disaster
Died As: Junkie / accused murderer
Glib Summary: Art from trash.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: God Save The Queen
Movie: The Doors
Performer: Jim Morrison (and, duh, the Doors)
Instrument: Vocals, leather pants
Original Musical Style: Bad beach bum blues
Musical Innovation: Norton Anthology of American Literature set to carnival-style pseudo-psychedelic blues
Image: Lizard King, natch
Died As: Bloated Fat Parody of Self (pre-Elvis Presley)
Glib Summary: Like, wow. Hey! Who let Meg Ryan on to the set?
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Break On Through
Movie: We Jam Econo
Performer: D. Boon (of the Minutemen)
Original Musical Style: Punk rock (learned in Hollywood; drove up from Pedro)
Musical Innovation: White suburban punks trying to sound like James Brown
Image: Flyin' the flannel
Died As: Criminally underappreciated proto-grunge martyr to the cause (pre-Andrew Wood)
Glib Summary: Sad punks talk, talk, talkin' about their long-ago glory days.
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: History Lesson, Pt. 2
Movie: The Iggy Pop movie they're supposedly making starring Elijah Wood as Iggy. It'll probably be called Lust For Life, or The Passenger if they're feeling sinister (and haven't heard of Antonioni).
Performer: Iggy Pop
Instrument: Vocals, peanut butter, broken glass
Original Musical Style: White boy garage blues rock
Drug: More, please.
Musical Innovation: Putting id directly into amplifier.
Image: Street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.
Glib Summary: It is highly unlikely that this supposed movie will actually be any good, but eh, who knows?
Classic Song Used As Way Too Obvious Music Cue: Any of about a dozen -- Nightclubbing, Funtime, Gimme Danger, Down On The Street, Dirt... I'm going with No Fun.