The Benny Goodman Story

Inciting Event: Benny meets society belle Alice Hammond, who has come to the dive where Benny is playing. She dislikes swing music and is only there in order to keep her brother (who likes helping “hot” bands) out of trouble. This is a pretty lengthy cluttered First Act, thanks to what are, in essence, two prologues—showing Benny as a boy and then as a teenager. But when we view the structural moments as a whole, we can see that the heart of this story isn’t, in fact, Benny’s career as an innovative band leader, but rather his romance with Alice. As such, this quite obviously the Inciting Event.

First Plot Point: At the invitation of Alice’s brother, Benny plays a Mozart concerto at one of the Hammond’s “musical evenings.” Alice is initially horrified, believing Benny will fail and humiliate himself. Instead, she is blown away and tells Benny she has “never been so moved.” This officially launches their relationship out of that of passive (or perhaps even antagonistic) acquaintances and into the realm of mutual affection.

First Pinch Point: While out on a date with someone else, Alice recognizes Benny in the band—playing tame waltzes, which she knows he hates. She scolds him for not following his musical convictions, and he grows angry and quits his job. This is a nice moment, since it both drives the plot forward in a positive way—and emphasizes the stakes for Benny professionally as well as within his relationship with Alice.

Midpoint: While on tour in California with his band, Benny’s music is a huge (and surprising) success in Paloma. Alice unexpectedly flies out to see the show. Afterwards she tells him she’s in love with him—and he finally reciprocates. This shifts the whole tenor of their relationship from reaction to action.

Second Pinch Point: After hesitating one too many times in asking Alice to marry him (believing she wouldn’t be happy giving up her wealthy socialite life and trailing him all over the country), Benny goes to Hollywood unannounced, leaving her behind. Alice grows angry and begins to doubt their relationship. This is a major emphasis of the stakes, which leads right into the Third Plot Point.

Third Plot Point: Benny returns to perform a landmark concert at Carnegie Hall—only to learn Alice has left town, even though she knew about the concert, which had always been her dream for him. It seems he has finally lost her for good and all.

Climax: The concert begins. Most of the Climax is the concert—filled with musical numbers. But we see Alice (who has been convinced by Benny’s mother to return) boarding a plane and rushing to get to him in time to see his triumph.

Climactic Moment: Alice arrives—and Benny sees her.

Resolution: Benny “asks” Alice to marry him with his music, and she nods yes.

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