All That Jazz (film)

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All That Jazz
All That Jazz.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bob Fosse
Produced by Robert Alan Aurthur
Daniel Melnick
Wolfgang Glattes
Kenneth Utt
Written by Robert Alan Aurthur
Bob Fosse
Starring Roy Scheider
Jessica Lange
Leland Palmer
Ann Reinking
Music by Ralph Burns
Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno
Edited by Alan Heim
Distributed by 20th Century Fox (North America)
Columbia Pictures (International)
Release date
  • December 20, 1979 (1979-12-20)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million[2]
Box office $37.8 million[3]

All That Jazz is a 1979 American musical drama film directed by Bob Fosse. The screenplay, by Robert Alan Aurthur and Fosse, is a semi-autobiographical fantasy based on aspects of Fosse's life and career as a dancer, choreographer and director. The film was inspired by Fosse's manic effort to edit his film Lenny while simultaneously staging the 1975 Broadway musical Chicago. It borrows its title from the Kander and Ebb tune "All That Jazz" in that production. The film won the Palme d'Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.

In 2001, All That Jazz was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[4]


Joe Gideon is a theater director and choreographer trying to balance staging his latest Broadway musical with editing a Hollywood film he has directed. He is a workaholic who chain-smokes cigarettes; without a daily dose of Vivaldi, Visine, Alka-Seltzer, Dexedrine, and sex, he wouldn't have the energy to keep up the biggest "show" of all—his life. His girlfriend Katie Jagger, his ex-wife Audrey Paris, and daughter Michelle try to pull him back from the brink, but it is too late for his exhausted body and stress-ravaged heart. In his imagination, he flirts with an angel of death named Angelique.

Gideon's condition gets progressively worse. He is rushed to a hospital after experiencing chest pains during a particularly stressful table-read (with the production's penny-pinching backers in attendance) and is admitted with severe angina. Joe brushes off his symptoms, and attempts to leave to go back to rehearsal. He collapses in the doctor's office, and is ordered to stay in the hospital for several weeks to rest his heart and recover from his exhaustion. The show is postponed, but Gideon continues his antics from the hospital bed, in brazen denial of his mortality. Champagne flows, endless strings of women frolic around his hospital room, and cigarettes are constantly being smoked. As cardiogram readings show no improvement, Gideon dances with death. The negative reviews for his film—which has been released without him—come in, and Gideon has a massive coronary event. He undergoes coronary artery bypass surgery.

The show's backers must decide whether it's time to pack up, or replace Gideon as the director. Their matter-of-fact, money-oriented negotiations with the insurers are juxtaposed with graphic scenes of Joe's open-heart surgery. The producers realize that the best way to recoup their money and make a profit is to bet on Gideon dying: the insurance proceeds would result in a profit of over half a million dollars. Meanwhile, elements from Gideon's past life are staged in dazzling dream sequences of musical numbers he directs from his hospital bed while on life support. Realizing death is imminent and his mortality unconquerable, Gideon has another heart attack. In the film's glittery finale, he goes through the five stages of grief—anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance—featured in the stand-up routine he had been editing. As death closes in on Gideon, his fantasy episodes become more hallucinatory and extravagant. In an epilogue set up as a monumental variety show featuring everyone from his past, Gideon takes center stage.

The final shot shows his corpse being zipped up in a body bag.






The film's structure is often compared to Federico Fellini's , another thinly veiled autobiographical film with fantastic elements.[5][6][7]

The part of Audrey Paris—Joe's ex-wife and continuing muse, played by Leland Palmer—closely reflects that of Fosse's wife, the dancer and actress Gwen Verdon, who continued to work with him on projects including Chicago and All That Jazz itself.

Gideon's rough handling of chorus girl Victoria Porter closely resembles Bob Fosse's own treatment of Jennifer Nairn-Smith during rehearsals for Pippin.[8] Nairn-Smith herself appears in the film as Jennifer, one of the NY/LA dancers.

Ann Reinking was one of Fosse's sexual partners at the time and was more or less playing herself in the film, but nonetheless she was required to audition for the role as Gideon's girlfriend, Kate Jagger.

Cliff Gorman was cast in the titular role of The Stand-Up—the film-within-a-film version of Lenny—after having played the role of Lenny Bruce in the original theatrical production of the show (for which he won a Tony Award), but was passed over for Fosse's film version of the production in favor of Dustin Hoffman.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviews were largely positive. All That Jazz scores an 86% "Fresh" (or "good") rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews.[10]

In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby called the film "an uproarious display of brilliance, nerve, dance, maudlin confessions, inside jokes and, especially, ego" and "an essentially funny movie that seeks to operate on too many levels at the same time... some of it makes you wince, but a lot of it is great fun... A key to the success of the production is the performance of Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon... With an actor of less weight and intensity, All That Jazz might have evaporated as we watched it. Mr. Scheider's is a presence to reckon with."[11]

Variety described it as "a self-important, egomaniacal, wonderfully choreographed, often compelling film" and added, "Roy Scheider gives a superb performance as Gideon, creating a character filled with nervous energy… The film's major flaw lies in its lack of real explanation of what, beyond ego, really motivates [him]."[12]

TV Guide said, "The dancing is frenzied, the dialogue piercing, the photography superb, and the acting first-rate, with non-showman Scheider an illustrious example of casting against type . . . All That Jazz is great-looking but not easy to watch. Fosse's indulgent vision at times approaches sour self-loathing."[13]

Leonard Maltin gave the film two-and-a-half stars (out of four) in his 2009 movie guide; he said that the film was "self-indulgent and largely negative," and that "great show biz moments and wonderful dancing are eventually buried in pretensions"; he also called the ending "an interminable finale which leaves a bad taste for the whole film."[7]

Time Out London states, "As translated onto screen, [Fosse's] story is wretched: the jokes are relentlessly crass and objectionable; the song 'n' dance routines have been created in the cutting-room and have lost any sense of fun; Fellini-esque moments add little but pretension; and scenes of a real open-heart operation, alternating with footage of a symbolic Angel of Death in veil and white gloves, fail even in terms of the surreal."[14]

Upon release in 1979, director Stanley Kubrick, who is mentioned in the movie, reportedly called it "[the] best film I think I have ever seen".[15] In 2001, All That Jazz was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was also preserved by the Academy Film Archive in the same year.[16] In 2006, the film was ranked #14 by the American Film Institute on its list of the Greatest Movie Musicals.

The film would be the last musical nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture until Disney's Beauty and the Beast in 1991, and was the last live-action musical to compete in the category until Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! was nominated over twenty years later.

Awards and honors[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
1979 NYFCC Award Best Director Bob Fosse 3rd place
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Supporting Actor Max Wright Nominated
1980 Academy Awards Best Picture Robert Alan Aurthur Nominated
Best Actor Roy Scheider Nominated
Best Director Bob Fosse Nominated
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Robert Alan Aurthur and Bob Fosse Nominated
Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score Ralph Burns Won
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Philip Rosenberg and Tony Walton; Set Decoration: Edward Stewart and Gary Brink Won
Best Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno Nominated
Best Costume Design Albert Wolsky Won
Best Film Editing Alan Heim Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Roy Scheider Nominated
American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards Best Edited Feature Film Alan Heim Won
Cannes Film Festival Palme D'Or Bob Fosse Won
NSFC Award Best Actor Roy Scheider Nominated
1981 BAFTA Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Roy Scheider Nominated
Best Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno Won
Best Sound Maurice Schell, Christopher Newman, Dick Vorisek Nominated
Best Production Design Philip Rosenberg Nominated
Best Costume Design Albert Wolsky Nominated
Best Editing Alan Heim Nominated
Japan Academy Prize Outstanding Foreign Language Film Nominated
Bodil Awards Best Non-European Film Bob Fosse Won
2001 National Film Preservation Board Nominated

Home media[edit]

The DVD issued in 2003 features scene-specific commentary by Roy Scheider and interviews with Scheider and Fosse. Fox released a "Special Music Edition" DVD in 2007, with an audio commentary by the film's Oscar-winning editor, Alan Heim. Blu-ray and DVD editions were released in August 2014 with all the old special features, as well as new supplements through the Criterion Collection brand.[18]


  1. ^ "ALL THAT JAZZ (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 1980-01-28. Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  2. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p258
  3. ^ "All That Jazz, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ "ALL THAT JAZZ". Cannes Film Festival. 
  5. ^ Vincent Canby in The New York Times
  6. ^ DVD review in The Onion: A.V. Club Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ a b "Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide" page 26
  8. ^ All His Jazz: The Life & Death of Bob Fosse by Martin Gottfried, Da Capo Press, 1990
  9. ^ Simonson, Robert (13 September 2002). "Cliff Gorman, Broadway's Lenny, Is Dead at 65". Playbill, Inc. Retrieved 19 July 2018. 
  10. ^ All That Jazz at Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ The New York Times review
  12. ^ Variety review
  13. ^ TV Guide review
  14. ^ Time Out London review Archived 2008-05-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Baxter 1997, p. 12.
  16. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive. 
  17. ^ "The 75 Best Edited Films". Editors Guild Magazine. 1 (3). May 2012. 
  18. ^ "August Titles". Criterion. Retrieved 2014-05-15. 

External links[edit]