While performing for blind children in London, blues/soul legend Ray Charles (playing himself) befriends David (Piers Bishop) – a 10-year-old boy who has recently lost his sight – and his over-protective mother Peggy (Mary Peach), whose boyfriend Steve (Tom Bell) is given the job of composing some new songs for Ray’s upcoming European tour. On discovering a pioneering eye surgeon in Paris, Ray has the hard task of trying to convince Peggy to allow her son to undergo the surgery…
This 1964 musical drama was cooked up by Hollywood star-turned-director Paul Henreid (it was the Casablanca star’s last cinematic feature) as a vehicle for soul legend Ray Charles, to showcase the performer’s huge talent on the silver screen. While the film’s story is sugary to taste and the melodrama is more 1950s confection than 1960s kitchen sink kookyness (Richard Lester’s hit comedy A Hard Day’s Night (*) had come out four months earlier in the UK), the copious footage of Ray Charles in concert is the best reason to revisit this tame but likeable affair. Twelve songs are performed by the King of the Blues, including I Got A Woman, Hit the Road (Jack) and Busted, while girl group The Raelettes reign supreme on the backing vocals. Turning in a memorable turn is Dawn Addams (she of Star Maidens fame) as a seductive fashion designer.
THE UK RELEASE
Ballad in Blue is out on Blu-ray and DVD from Network Distributing as part of The British Film collection, presented in a High Definition transfer from the original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Special features include an image gallery and instant play facility.
(*) Richard Lester’s seminal classic A HARD DAY’S NIGHT celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a new 4k digital restoration being released on Blu-ray and DVD from Second Sight Films on 21 July, following an extended run at BFI Southbank from 4 July.