Adapted from a short-lived radio series, Webb’s most elaborate movie, “Pete Kelly’s Blues,” newly out on an excellently digitalized Blu-ray from Warner Archive, is a major artifact of the Dixieland revival. This wide-screen, Warnercolor production may be longer on ambition than style but it is bookended by two notable set pieces — a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral with a tender regard for an extended trumpet solo and a many-vectored shootout beneath the mirrored ball of an empty dance hall.
Strong (but not subtle) characterisation, coded dialogue, a flavourful sense of period and mise en scène which achieves something of a baroque quality rare in ’50s Hollywood (other examples include Touch of Evil, and parts of Johnny Guitar).
It seems that Webb was as passionate a jazz buff as Clint Eastwood, and this movie is at least as much of a labor of love as Bird. In his film essay Los Angeles Plays Itself, Thom Andersen compares Webb’s minimalist direction of Dragnet episodes to the direction of Ozu, but here the mise en scene is positively baroque in spots -– and beautifully composed.