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Bye Bye Blues

Year: 1989
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 117 min
Director: Anne Wheeler
Producer: Anne Wheeler, Arvi Liimatainen
Executive Producer: Tony Allard
Writer: Anne Wheeler
Cinematographer: Vic Sarin
Editor: Christopher Tate
Sound: Garrell Clark
Music: George Blondheim
Cast: Wayne Robson, Rebecca Jenkins, Kate Reid, Luke Reilly, Stuart Margolin, Robyn Stevan, Leon Pownall, Michael Ontkean
Production Company: True Blue Films Ltd., Allarcom Ltd.

Based on the wartime experiences of director Anne Wheeler’s mother, Bye Bye Blues begins as Daisy Cooper (Rebecca Jenkins) is living a life of romance-novel bliss: married to a handsome military doctor (Michael Ontkean) posted in India, she lives in a splendour matched only by the exoticism of her surroundings. But, with the onset of the Second World War, her husband Teddy is dispatched to Singapore and the pregnant Daisy is sent with her son to her parents’ farm in Alberta. When Singapore falls to the Japanese, Daisy learns her husband has been captured. Distraught, she is nevertheless forced to make a living for herself and her children. Much to the consternation of her God-fearing parents, she takes a job as a piano player with a local dance band.

It is while on tour with this ragtag outfit, amid the smoke, the booze and the brawling, that Daisy’s self-discovery really begins. Not only does her singing endear her to the roughest of audiences, she finds herself dangerously attracted to a dashing trombone player, Max Gramley (Luke Reilly), who has drifted north from the United States. For Daisy, the war offers a bitterly ironic blessing: while it has separated her from her husband, it has introduced her to a side of life, not to mention herself, she might otherwise never have known. When word reaches her that peace has been declared and her husband is on his way home, Daisy faces her own conflicting loyalties and desires.

A delicate, bittersweet and poignant melodrama, Bye Bye Blues is essentially an unapologetic, old-fashioned weepie. It gains much of its resonance from Rebecca Jenkins’s stunning, star-making turn; in her first lead role, Jenkins carries the film with a confident, effervescent performance as the vulnerable and romantic Daisy.

As Gerald Pratley explains in "A Century of Canadian Cinema," Bye Bye Blues, which went on to earn thirteen Genie Award nominations, was "dismissed by several critics as being ‘another conventional film.’" However, Pratley asserts that Wheeler’s third film is one of her finest: "Like the promising Loyalties (1986) and Cowboys Don’t Cry (1988), it is set in Western Canada and conveys a marvellous, graphic sense of people and place." Bye Bye Blues won three Genie Awards for Lead Actress (Jenkins), Supporting Actress (Robyn Stevan), and Original Song (Bill Henderson).