Give Now

Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Nat King Cole At the Movies

Nat King Cole never reached the cinematic heights of fellow singers Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, but his recordings appeared in many films of the 1950s & 60s.

Play Episode (Real Audio)
Nat King Cole At The Movies Album Cover

Photo: Album Cover

Nat King Cole's cinematic lineage extends back to the 1940s, when the Nat King Cole Trio appeared in numerous "soundies" (early versions of videos) and a number of feature films.

Pianist and singer Nat King Cole is one of the most beloved icons of 20th-century American popular song, but his relationship with Hollywood never quite reached the exalted heights that some of his cohorts such as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby achieved.

Cole’s cinematic lineage extends back to the 1940s, when the Nat King Cole Trio appeared in numerous “soundies” (early versions of videos) and a number of feature films.

In the 1950s Cole’s presence (without the Trio) in movies increased greatly, through both appearances and use of his recordings in the films themselves. After his 1958 starring vehicle St. Louis Blues failed to score at the box-office, the singer continued to pop up periodically either on the screen or the soundtrack–including a turn as Julie London’s uncle in Night of the Quarter Moon, and perhaps most famously as a narrative troubadour in Cat Ballou. This program includes “Song of Delilah,” “Never Let Me Go,” “I’d Rather Have the Blues,” “Song of Raintree County,” “Blue Gardenia,” and many more movie-related Cole recordings.

Watch Nat King Cole sing “The Morning Star” in the movie St. Louis Blues:

Music Heard On This Episode

St. Louis Blues
Nat King Cole — Songs From St. Louis Blues/Looking Back (Collectors' Choice, 2007)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
St. Louis Blues
Nat King Cole — Songs From St. Louis Blues/Looking Back (Collectors' Choice, 2007)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
They Can't Make Her Cry
Nat King Cole — L-O-V-E: the Complete Capitol Recordings 1960-1964 (Bear Family, 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Lost April (trio version)
Nat King Cole — Complete Capitol Trio Recordings (Mosaic, 1991)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Mona Lisa
Nat King Cole — The Classic Singles (Capitol , 2003)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Song of Delilah
Nat King Cole — At the Movies (Capitol, 1993)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Blue Gardenia
Nat King Cole — At the Movies (Capitol, 1993)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
My Flaming Heart
Nat King Cole — At the Movies (Capitol, 1993)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
I'd Rather Have the Blues
Nat King Cole — Stardust: the Complete Capitol Recordings 1955-59 (Bear Family, 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Hajji Baba
Nat King Cole — At the Movies (Capitol, 1993)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Careless Love
Nat King Cole — Songs From St. Louis Blues/Looking Back (Collector's Choice, 2007)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Memphis Blues
Nat King Cole — Songs From St. Louis Blues/Looking Back (Collector's Choice, 2007)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
China Gate
Nat King Cole — Stardust: the Complete Capitol Recordings 1955-59 (Bear Family, 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
When I Fall in Love
Nat King Cole — The Classic Singles (Capitol, 2003)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Night of the Quarter Moon
Nat King Cole — Stardust: Complete Capitol Recordings 1955-59 (Bear Family, 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
In the Cool of the Day
Nat King Cole — At the Movies (Capitol, 1993)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Ballad of Cat Ballou
Nat King Cole — At the Movies (Capitol, 1993)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Song of Raintree County
Nat King Cole — Raintree County (FilmScoreMonthly, 2007)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

View all posts by this author »

  • http://yahoo.com Mel

    where can I buy the movie ST lOUIS BLUES?

  • David Brent Johnson

    Mel, I don’t believe it’s ever been released on VHS or DVD–or if it has, it’s no longer available. Not sure why, given the number of luminaries in the cast. Cole’s album of music from the movie went out of print but has come back as part of a 2-albums-on-1-CD collection:

    http://tinyurl.com/clft7n

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Afterglow:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Afterglow

About The Host

Search Afterglow

This Week On Night Lights

Late Autumn: Stan Getz, 1987-91

The album cover for Stan Getz's SERENITY.

Long a troubled star in the mid-20th century jazz world, at the end of his life saxophonist Stan Getz found peace and made some of his finest recordings.

Read more »

Night Lights is WFIU's weekly program of classic jazz hosted by David Brent Johnson.

More from Night Lights »