Saturday, September 26, 2015

More 1930's Musical Shorts

Since the great George Gershwin was born on this very day, September 26 in 1898, today we shall focus on musicals; after all, Your Correspondent grew up (or chose not to) watching Fred n' Ginger features, the frequently musical Ernie Kovacs Show, Looney Tunes, Robert Youngson slapstick comedy compilations AND Jay Ward Productions' Fractured Flickers on TV.

Here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, we plead "guilty as charged" (no contest) to liking 1930's musical 1-reelers, very likely enough to be a charter member of the "Men Who Love 1930's Musical Shorts Too Much" 12-step group.

Here, in a Vitaphone Melody Master short featuring Vincent Lopez & His Orchestra, is a teenage version of megawatt musical comedy powerhouse Betty Hutton. Our favorite part is when she clucks like a chicken. Take it, Betty!

Just one of several tremendous musical short subjects directed by Joseph Henabery for the Vitaphone Melody Master series is this massive entertaining 1-reeler starring innovative big band swingmeisters Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra.

Two of the "string swing kings" were Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, in a clip from the 1930 Universal feature, The King Of Jazz. It's a safe bet that across the pond, Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli were paying big time attention to the duo's recordings.

Eddie Lang also appeared in The Big Broadcast with Bing Crosby. Tragically, the virtuoso guitarist died in 1933 as the result of a botched operation.

Also performing "Dinah" on the silver screen, as Bing Crosby did in the previous clip, were the gold standard for vocal groups in the 1930's: The Mills Brothers.

The Mills Bros. popularity was such that Decca recorded sides in which the harmonizing brothers collaborated with none other than Louis Armstrong. Fortunately, Paramount Pictures also captured The Mills Brothers' four-part harmony heroics on film in a slew of 1-reel musicals and Fleischer Studio Screen Songs cartoons.

Next on the itinerary is a quick detour from the 1930's back to the Roaring Twenties. The genre of the musical short subject actually began in 1923 with the historic DeForest Phonofilms, and then, starting a couple of years later, the Vitaphone Varieties and Fox Movietone Musicals.

As a result of several 1930's Merrie Melodies cartoons devoted to radio stars (I've Got To Sing A Torch Song, The Coo-coonut Grove, Toy Town Hall, The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos), dyed-in-the-wool film buffs born long after the popular bandleader's death in 1943 know who Ben Bernie was.

The orchestra leader, among those credited for the song "Sweet Georgia Brown", was enormously popular on radio. Here he is, The Ol' Maestro, in 1925!

In the Vitaphone Varieties, vaudeville met the early days of big band and jazz. These ensembles unquestionably feature a strong fun element and goofiness that goes hand-in-hand with the musicianship. How can one not like a band with the name Dick Rich & His Melodious Monarchs?

Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog is also "guilty as charged" of possessing an abiding love for stage and screen songstress Lillian Roth - and not just because she appeared with favorite comedians The Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers and was the featured live-action performer in several incredible Fleischer Screen Songs cartoons (just "follow the bouncing ball").

Known more for her offscreen difficulties (largely due to the book and movie I'll Cry Tomorrow) than her show business comebacks and stage triumphs, Lillian Roth, was a legendary vocalist. The following photo from The LIFE Picture Collection, one of many historic shots, is a better way to remember Miss Roth, a dynamic, show-stopping performer who could belt 'em out with the best of them.

The following Paramount 1-reeler, Meet The Boyfriend, isn't quite as cool as Lillian singing Little Alimony Sal in the 1934 Vitaphone mini-musical Story Conference, but demonstrates her beauty, chutzpah, winning charm and ability to put a song - ANY song - over nonetheless.

Big thanks to all of the above for their invaluable assistance in keeping this blogger's Sunny Side Up.

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