Y’all GOT to see the video Hollywood Rhythm: The Paramount Musical Shorts, Vol. 4 – Rhapsodies in Black and Blue. It is a collection of vintage short films from 1930-32, typically one-reel and about seven minutes. These made good appetizers before the main flicks, and just right to set up a little mini-story and do a song or two.
Every single video collected here fascinated me, but especially the first one. Louis Armstrong comes to a janitor in a dream, outfitted outlandishly and waist deep in soap bubbles to sing “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You”. I’d never seen Satchmo’s freak flag fly this high. I was seeing glimpses of Sun Ra and George Clinton and even Little Richard. Yowsa!
They gathered fascinating performances in numerous genres. There was an opera piece, and some hayseeds (Eddie Younger and his Mountaineers) in an old general store with some hot picking that doesn’t sound like Jimmie Rodgers or the Carter family.
The Rudy Vallee Musical Doctor set at the end was probably the only somewhat lame item inherently. Even it, however, provides a fascinating window on the phenomenon of Rudy Vallee. So this is what made nice girls swoon. Hmm.
Props must also be handed out for Ethel Merman, who had two shorts included in this collection. One develops great pathos with The Blues coaxing her onto a bridge, working her up for a suicide. Surprisingly effective.
This is the kind of stuff that you should own. The only problem is that it is not available on DVD. The product is available only on VHS. Still well worth having.
The video comes from www.kino.com. You may wish to WRITE THEM AN EMAIL asking for a nice pretty DVD. Just a thought.
PS A response from the good folks at Kino suggests a couple of DVDs in their line containing some of these shorts. Hollywood Rhythm Vol 1: The Best of Jazz and Blues looks most righteous. Besides the apparently somewhat famous Louis Armstrong piece discussed above, this disc works in Duke and Cab Calloway and Fats Waller. Woo hoo! Warm up that credit card!!
Hollywood Rhythm Vol 2: The Best of Big Bands and Swing has the Rudy Vallee and some other groovy sounding things.