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Bird

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Synopsis

Forest Whitaker stars as the brilliant jazz saxophonist Charlie Bird Parker in this elegiac biopic. Director Clint Eastwood pays full homage to Parker's musical genius, but also devotes ample time to the musician's twin demons--drugs and alcohol-which accelerated his death at the age of 34. In his struggles to gain widespread acceptance for his music, Bird is forever stymied by his own self-destructiveness, and forever bailed out by the love of his life, Chan Richardson Parker (Diane Venora). The film bemoans the decline of the brand of jazz fathered by Parker, which came to be replaced by more conventional material -- as illustrated by the descent into the mainstream of Parker's mentor Buster Franklin. Also starring in Bird is Samuel E. Wright as Dizzy Gillespie. That's the real Charlie Bird Parker on the film's soundtrack, though most of the background music has been re-orchestrated.~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Cast

  • Forest Whitaker
  • Diane Venora
  • Michael Zelniker
  • Samuel E. Wright
  • Keith David
  • Michael McGuire
  • James Handy
  • Damon Whitaker
  • Morgan Nagler
  • Arlen Dean Snyder

Did You Know?

Trivia

  • The saxophone playing is original Charlie Parker performances. The body and fingering are by Charles McPherson, who had to learn to breathe exactly like Parker did in the recordings.
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Goofs

  • When Charlie Parker goes to Dizzy Gillespie's house in the middle of the night and asks Dizzy to write down a tune, the year is 1953. The tune is "Now's the Time", published and recorded in 1945.
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Quotes

    • Chan Parker: Dizzy sent you a birthday card. Seems he's back in town. Do you owe him a phone call?
    • Charlie Parker: I owe Dizzy everything...except a phone call.
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Metacritic

88

Bird wisely does not attempt to explain Parker's music by connecting experiences with musical discoveries. This is a film of music, not about it, and one of the most extraordinary things about it is that we are really, literally, hearing Parker on the soundtrack.

Metacritic review by Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
75

Clint Eastwood remains a competent, rather than distinctive, film maker, but he obviously respects the material. Bird is essentially factual, and we come to understand why so many other musicians thought shooting heroin might enable them to transfer [Charlie Parker]'s genius to themselves. [26 Sept 1988, p. 4D]

Metacritic review by Mike Clark
Mike Clark
USA Today