The Five Pennies

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The Five Pennies
The Five Pennies.jpg
Directed by Melville Shavelson
Produced by Jack Rose
Written by Robert Smith
Jack Rose
Melville Shavelson
Starring Danny Kaye
Barbara Bel Geddes
Harry Guardino
Bob Crosby
Louis Armstrong
Tuesday Weld
Music by Thorton W. Allen
Sylvia Fine
M.W. Sheafe
Leith Stevens
Cinematography Daniel L. Fapp
Edited by Frank P. Keller
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 1959 (1959)
Running time
117 mins.
Country United States
Box office $3 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Five Pennies was a semi-biographical 1959 film starring Danny Kaye as cornet player and bandleader Loring Red Nichols. Other cast members included Barbara Bel Geddes, Harry Guardino, Bob Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Susan Gordon, and Tuesday Weld. The film was directed by Melville Shavelson.

The film received four Oscar nominations: Best Musical Scoring (Leith Stevens), Best Original Song (Danny Kaye's wife Sylvia Fine), Best Cinematography (Daniel L. Fapp), and Best Costumes (Edith Head).

The real Red Nichols recorded all of Kaye's cornet playing for the film soundtrack. The other musicians in Red's band were not asked to provide their musical contributions and the sound of his "band" was supplied by session players.

Plot summary[edit]

Red Nichols (Kaye) is a small-town cornet player who moves to New York City in the 1920s and finds work in a band led by Wil Paradise (Crosby). He meets and marries singer Bobbie Meredith (Bel Geddes), and the two form their own Dixieland band called "The Five Pennies" (a play on Nichols' name, since a nickel equals five pennies). As their popularity peaks, their young daughter Dorothy (Susan Gordon) contracts polio and the family leaves the music business, moving to Los Angeles. When Dorothy becomes a teen (Tuesday Weld) she learns of her father's music career and persuades him go on a comeback tour. The tour borders on failure until several notable musicians from Nichols' past appear to save the day.


The drummer in the scenes with Louis Armstrong was Vel Tino, Sr.

Features an energetic Charleston and an exaggerated Tango with Lizanne Truex and Danny Kaye, who hammed up the Tango during the rehearsal to such a degree that the director added it to the scene.


  1. ^ "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34

External links[edit]