Excerpt from “Chroniques de Jazz,” by Boris Vian, February 1948 (version originale followed by translation)

Version originale:

« Il était amoureux du jazz, ne vivait que pour le jazz, n’entendait, ne s’exprimait qu’en jazz. »

–Henri Salvador, à Noël Arnaud*

Considerons les revues sérieuses (non je ne voulais pas parler du Bulletin du H.C.F.). Voici une ravissante nouvelle qui nous arrive tout droit de la bonne (sic) ville de Memphis par l’intermédiaire de M. Down Beat lui-même, du 17 décembre. (C’est vieux, mais c’est encore chaud.)

Le président du Comité local de censure, l’honorable citoyen Lloyd T. Binford, a fait interdire sur les écrans de la bonne (sic) ville de Memphis le film  «New Orleans», à cause de la place trop importante accordée à Louis Armstrong dans la distribution. Si M. Binford avait interdit ce film pour la raison qui’il nous montre, surtout l’exploitation éhontée des Noirs par les Blancs, nous n’aurions rien dit ; mais avouez que le prétexte original est assez gratiné. En outre, tous les passages, dans divers films, où l’on entrevoit King Cole, Pearl Bailey, Lena Horne, et d’autres Noirs, sont coupés, et le film «Curley» est interdit parce qu’on y voit des enfants blancs jouer avec les Noirs.

Un à qui cette nouvelle ne vas sûrement pas faire plaisir, c’est sans nul doute Henri L. Gautier, secrétaire général du H.C. de Lyon, qui a publié dans « Swing Music », no. I, le nouvel organe du club lyonnais, un article formidablement documenté sur les films dans lesquels on peut entendre et voir des musiciens de jazz. Si ce bon Gautier vivait à Memphis, sans nul doute, il n’aurait plus qu’à se tourner les pouces.*

Translation by  Paul Ben-Itzak:

“He was in love with jazz, lived only for jazz, had ears only for and expressed himself exclusively in jazz.” — Henri Salvador, to Noël Arnaud

Let’s consider for a moment the serious magazines. (And no, I’m not talking about the Newsletter of the Hot Club of France.) Here’s some thrilling news just in from the good (sic) city of Memphis via the intermediary of Monsieur Downbeat himself, in his December 17 issue: (Okay, it’s a bit dated, but it’s still sizzling.)

The president of the local censorship committee, the right honorable Mr. Lloyd T. Binford, has banned from all the screens of the good (sic) city of Memphis the film “New Orleans,” because of the elevated role accorded to Louis Armstrong in the casting. If Monsieur Binford had banned the film for the reasons he claims, above all the shameful exploitation of Blacks by Whites, we’d have kept our mouth shut; but let’s admit that this initial pretext is pretty lame. On top of this interdiction, every segment, in numerous films, in which one catches even the most fleeting glimpse of King Cole, Pearl Bailey, Lena Horn or any other Black person has been cut, and the film “Curley” banned entirely because it reveals white children in the act of playing with Black children.

I know of at least one person who will surely rejoice at this news: Henri L. Gautier, general secretary of the Hot Club of Lyon, who has published in the first edition of Swing Music, the new newsletter of the HCL, a meticulously documented article on films in which one can hear and see jazz musicians. If the honorable Gautier was living in Memphis, he’d have little left to do but twiddle his thumbs.

*Copyright 1967, Editions La Jeune Parque. Published by 1018, Paris, with the text established and introduced by Lucian Malson. Collects the best of Boris Vian’s press reviews for Jazz Hot, embellished with select commentaries from Combat and published between 1947 and 1958. Also the source for Salvador’s statement, made to Noël Arnaud. The (sic)s are Vian’s from the original.

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