Film & Documentaries

There are very few film clips of Charlie. Overall, there are 3, possibly more* clips which are rare and hardly ever reproduced in their entirety. Posted here are three of the most famous pieces. The other known piece, which is short and soundless, is of Charlie signing autographs in Sweden. This will be posted when available. The links on this page lead to two clips, kindly donated to Bird Lives by alter-nativa, a French musician's collective.

*One rumour suggests that a movie produced and directed by Will Cowan for Universal Pictures has Charlie Parker playing with the Lionel Hampton's Band, but this has never been substantiated. Apparently there was also a film of Charlie in on TV in Montreal in 1952/3, but according to legend, it was destroyed in a fire during the 1960's.

Thanks to Eshantha Peiris for this marvelous recommendation...

A previously unreleased film, recorded by Gjon Mili made for Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic Troupe. Until recently, this film was only rumoured to exist and only stills from it were ever seen.

This clip is probably mimed, as in several places the synchronisation is lacking. (Rich's drumming on Celebrity is obviously mimed and perhaps explains why Charlie is laughing). It has been suggested that the tracks they are miming to were recorded earlier in the day. This clip is probably not complete as other frames have been referred to, but as an historical record, it is priceless.

The tracks played are normally referred to as 'Ballarde', (based on 'I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good'), and 'Celebrity'. Both tracks have been available on general album releases for some time.

Despite the great respect Charlie had for Coleman Hawkins, there is obviously some form of competitiveness here. Just as Hawkins is coming to the end of his introduction, Charlie jumps in and cuts off the final few notes. For many musicians, this may have be seen as presumptuousness or even rudeness?

Charlie (as), Hawk (ts), Hank Jones (p), Ray Brown (b) and Buddy Rich (d)

This film can be found on a DVD entitled 'Norman Granz Improvisation'.

Extra Scenes from the Mili/Grantz session - 1950 This poor quality clip is narrated by Norman Granz. It contains some footage that has rarely been seen from the session above.

Possibly September 1950 Soundless clip, probably from the same session as above.Sunday 24 February 1952. Charlie and Dizzy appear on Channel 5, 'Stage Entrance', (dir: Bill Seasman), from New York to be presented with Down Best awards.Charlie (as), Dizzy (tp), Dick Hyman (p), Sandy Block (b) and Charlie Smith (d)
February 1952 Charlie and Dizzy at the Channel Five TV studiosSunday 24 February 1952. Charlie and Dizzy appear on Channel 5, 'Stage Entrance', (dir: Bill Seasman), from New York to be presented with Down Best awards. For along time, this was thought to be the only known surviving film of Charlie playing live. (Vail)Charlie (as), Dizzy (tp), Dick Hyman (p), Sandy Block (b) and Charlie Smith (d)

The Bo Tak Film. Below are images taken from the silent film shot by Bo Tak in Sweden in November 1950. As yet, the film is not has not been shared with Bird Lives.

Bo Tak

Please visit Bo Tak's website. He has a remarkable selection of jazz photographs and other images.


Russell Davis's radio documentary, 'Bird Song' - The Charlie Parker Story,  is probably the finest documentary of it's kind.

Bird Song - Part One
Bird Song - Part Two
Bird Song - Part Three
Bird Song - Part Four
PBS series, Ken Burn's Jazz. It's narrated by Keith David. CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE
Masters of American Music, Vol. 1: Celebrating Bird - The Triumph of Charlie Parker - 2009
Charlie Parker Life and Times - Rainbow BleederUses a fine selection of Bird Lives images.....
Meet the Past: Charlie Parker - August 25, 2009
Stanley Crouch recounts rise of Charlie 'Bird' Parker