Side A of this disc contains Soundies Festival and Soundies Cavalcadeâ€”but those titles are artificial, appearing only on the sleeve and as menu slides to cover the six â€œsoundiesâ€ includedâ€”six very brief (one-reel or two-reel) musical shorts, all featuring black performers. So while there are eight rather than four reviews here, six of the eight are for shorts.
Mr. Adamâ€™s Bomb, 1949, b&w, Eddie Green (dir.), Gene Ware, Jessie Grayson, Mildred Boyd. 0:20.
Silly but cute comedy, really not much more than a sketch. Really not much to say. Iâ€™ll give it $0.25.
Bubbling Over, 1934, b&w, Leigh Jason (dir.), Ethel Waters, Southernaires, Hamtree Harrington, Frank L. Wilson. 0:20
Another sketch, although fairly well developed for its brief length. Scratchy video and sound. $0.25.
Open the Door, Richard and Answer to Open the Door, Richard, 1945. William Forest Crouch (dir.), Dusty Fletcher, Stepin Fetchit. 0:09 + 0:10
The last short in Soundies Festival is Open the Door, Richardâ€”a remarkable 9-minute drunk-act monologue by Dusty Fletcher. But in IMDB, that title yields whatâ€™s here (as the first short in Soundies Cavalcade) as Answer to Open the Door, Richard, here two minutes shorter than the IMDB summary. This oneâ€™s an extended music piece with a singing jazz group and back-and-forth between Dusty Fletcher (the drunk on the sidewalk, but now he’s standing) and Stepin Fetchit (Richard, not all that chipper himself but just married and not about to open that door). The second partâ€™s seriously choppy, but Iâ€™ll give the combination $0.50.
Murder in Swing Town, 1937, b&w, Arthur Dreifuss (dir.), Les Hite and his orchestra, June Richmond. 0:10.
This one isnâ€™t even in IMDBâ€”not surprisingly. Itâ€™s basically two musical numbers with a vague semblance of a plot mixed in. Choppiness doesnâ€™t helpâ€”but Iâ€™ll give it $0.25.
Boogie-Woogie Dream, 1944, b&w, Hans Burger (dir.), Lena Horne, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Teddy Wilson and his band. 0:13.
Definitely the highlight of this side. The plot, such as it is, has a posh couple (Russell Morrison and Virginia Pine) falling asleep at a nightclub as it closesâ€”and the dishwashwer (Lena Horne) fantasizes with a couple of other cleanup folks (Ammons, Johnson) about singing and playing with Teddy Wilson. Mostly music, and great music at that. For a change, the video and sound are pretty good. This one gets $0.75â€”which for 13 minutes isnâ€™t bad.
Reaching for the Moon, 1930, b&w, Edmund Goulding (dir.), Douglas Fairbanks, Bebe Daniels, Edward Everett Horton, Claud Allister, Bing Crosby. 1:30 or 1:14 or 1:06 [1:06]
This should be a screwball musical comedy based on Irving Berlinâ€™s musicalâ€”except that in this version, only one song remains, more than 44 minutes into the movie. So it really isnâ€™t a musicalâ€”but itâ€™s loads of fun, with the senior Douglas Fairbanks acquitting himself as a swashbuckling investor (just before the crash) who doesnâ€™t deal with ladies very well. Mostly set on a cruise ship. Art deco lettering throughoutâ€”in the hotels, on Wall Street, on the shipâ€”adds an odd air, but this isnâ€™t meant to be taken seriously in any case. I believe Bing Crosby does one verse of the one song, but heâ€™s good while heâ€™s there. $1.25.
Mr. Imperium, 1951, color, Don Hartman (dir.), Lana Turner, Ezio Pinza, Marjorie Main, Barry Sullivan, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Debbie Reynolds. 1:27.
This is more like it: most definitely a musical (although Debbie Reynoldsâ€”18 at the timeâ€”doesnâ€™t sing, and Lana Turnerâ€™s songs are dubbed by another singer) and a romance. Turnerâ€™s a singer, later a movie star; Pinzaâ€™s a crown prince, later king. They meet, fall in love, are separated for 12 years, meet again (this time in California), fall in love againâ€”and are separated again, but we assume it will all work out. Not great, but good (although the heat between Pinza and Turner is room temperature at best), and both color and sound are quite good. $1.50.