Thursday, February 09, 2006

Duke’s Legacy vs. Hollywood’s Agenda

I just caught up with this item in Variety. It should be great news, but knowing Hollywood’s habit of putting agenda before historical accuracy, it’s also cause for concern:

“New Line has acquired ‘The Jazz Ambassadors,’ a pitch for Antoine Fuqua to direct and Morgan Freeman to star in as jazz impresario Duke Ellington.

“Project covers the Ellington orchestra’s tour of Iraq during a 1963 CIA-led coup that would eventually pave the way for Saddam Hussein’s rise to power.”

I’m afraid I can see where this is going, and Duke would not approve. Ellington was a staunch anti-communist, who enthusiastically toured on behalf of the State Department and played for American servicemen in Viet Nam. His visceral rejection of Communism went back to the early 1950’s when he was shocked to learn his name had been added without his permission to the Communist-orchestrated Stockholm Peace Petition. Although he was never overtly political, he became a friend of Richard Nixon in 1969, when he was awarded the Medal of Freedom on his seventieth birthday.

Many are surprised to learn the elegant Ellington was also devoutly religious. He recognized communism was an evil force diametrically opposed to the interests of his country and his God. He was also a musical genius, who almost single-handedly introduced long-form compositions into the jazz idiom. I hope New Line accurately presents his amazing life and legacy, rather than seeking to score contemporary political points.