Jack Sheldon, Billy Crystal, Clint Eastwood, Terry Gibbs, Merv Griffin & Others.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Doug McIntyre & Penny Peyser
Easily the most purely entertaining of the documentaries playing in competition during the 2008 Indianapolis International Film Festival, "Trying to Get Good" proved it by taking home the festival's Audience Award in the documentary category.
If not by name, I assure you that you know Jack Sheldon.
If not as Merv Griffin's trumpet-wielding sidekick, then virtually any of you who grew up watching "Schoolhouse Rock" will recognize Sheldon as its voice on such memorable little ditties as "I'm Just a bill."
Ahhh. The childhood memories are flowing back already.
The man Billy Crystal calls "the last cat standing," Jack Sheldon is the subject of "Trying to Get Good," an entertaining and compelling documentary from filmmakers Penny Peyser and Doug McIntyre featuring appearances by the likes of Crystal, Dom Deluise, Clint Eastwood, Mark Rydell, Terry Gibbs and a host of others.
Sheldon's story, a story filled with a lifetime of cool jazz and personal challenges, is told with Sheldon's cooperation and interviews from those he's worked with over the years.
Sheldon began his career as a child in Jacksonville, Florida. By the age of 15, he was appearing in jazz clubs and making a name for himself. You've heard his trumpet in films such as "White Men Can't Jump," "Object of Beauty," "For the Boys," and "Mr. Saturday Night" while playing a singer in films such as "Stuarts Saves His Family" and "Speechless."
"Trying to Get Good" is the perfect blend of Sheldon's gifts and his challenges, his struggles to "get good" while also seemingly finding salvation in the world of jazz and the Hollywood that has long embraced him.
Beautifully photographed with an impossible to forget score, "Trying to Get Good" likely has the best commercial prospects of IIFF's 2008 competition documentaries. If it makes its way to a theatre near you, definitely catch it. If not, find out more by visiting the film's website at
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic