American Songs and Musicals in the "Thirties"
Happy days are here again
1 Happy Days are here again, such is the song that served as slogan to Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential campaign. Sung together by millions of Americans, its resolutely optimistic words and its lively tune allowed their way to ensure the democratic camp a landslide victory.
Written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, it had been performed for the first time by Charles King in Chasing Rainbows, a movie released in late 1929 the scenario of which puts forward the contrast between the artificial magic of the show and the stern backstage reality through the characters of a Broadway troupe on tour.
The year begins however as ended the previous one, hitting the headlines with bloody news. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker follow their murderous run in central Texas. On January 6, Malcolm Davis, the Deputy Sheriff of Tarrant County (TX) became their fifth victim since the robbery of Hillsboro on April 30, 1932.
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution is changed. The president-elect will take from now his official functions on January 20 and no longer March 4.
One of the first decisions of the president Franklin D. Roosevelt, and not the least, is to finish it with Prohibition. The sale of beer is allowed from the end of March but it will however be necessary to wait until December so that is applied the 21th Amendment legalizing alcohol. The tone of the new presidency is nevertheless given.
It is the beginning of a new era, regarding communication. President Roosevelt takes up again the famous fireside chats he took the habit on radio when he was Governor of New York. It is a question for him to speak directly to the citizens by dealing on air of the various current problems and offer solutions which will be discussed in the meetings. His broadcasts attract a considerable number of listeners and provides him a wide public support.
It is time for him to undertake the promised reforms. The New Deal will constitute the basis of his politics to struggle against the disastrous effects of the crisis. Although he resumes measures inaugurated by former President Hoover to fight against poverty and revitalize economy such as the Buy American Act, it is especially his method which gathers the popular support. He knows how to learn of the blunders of his predecessor, driven by urgency and often overwhelmed by the events.
The great year of musical movies
2 The genre is since a moment shunned by the public when is released 42nd Street. Warner Brothers which don’t stop to get over a rough patch, banks its last dollars on this new musical. Bingo! This time, the bet was won. The film attracts crowds of enthusiastic viewers excited by its "nonconformism" and audacity. It affirms itself as the unavoidable "musical movie" of the year while in another register, the audience fears for Fay Wray held on King Kong's giant hand.
The success of 42nd Street acts as an antidote able to keep his chin up in a time where everyone is down in the dumps. A new wind blows finally on a category which the Great Depression totally abandoned. Despite differences with his producer Darryl Zanuck, Warner studios want to take advantage of the craze generated by 42nd Street to insist by releasing simultaneously two new musicals conceived in the same spirit, The Gold Diggers of on 1933 and Footlight Parade. Both will soon be tremendous successes.
Charles King - Happy Days are here again
The Gold Diggers of 1933
3 Melvin Le Roy has been entrusted the direction of Gold Diggers of 1933. He already possesses a certain workmanship of the genre but achieves here a true masterstroke, especially as the subject is already a classic of the Broadway stage and was even the object of two silent movies released respectively in 1923 and 1929. The second had moreover appeared among the biggest successes of the year.
Once again, the plot takes place in the theater world with a backdrop of money troubles. Four young actresses and a producer full of ideas but broke (Ned Sparks) are rehearsing one of the scenes of their next show when the bailiffs arrive to forcibly close the establishment due to unpaid bills. It is ultimately the young pianist and composer Brad (Dick Powell), the friend of the ingenue Polly (Ruby Keeler) who finds a way to finance a new musical. He refuses however to participate so that he is suspected of belonging to the underworld. He is in fact the son of a rich family which wants to know nothing about his taste for comedy and seeks to take him away from Polly. After several love affairs, the story ends well and all four young women marry wealthy men.
Director : Melvin LeRoy
Choreography : Busby Berkeley
Score : Harry Warren and Al Dubin
Actors : Ruby Keeler (Polly Parker), Dick Powell (Brad Roberts), Joan Blondell (Carol King, the torch singer), Ginger Rogers (Fay Fortune the seductive), Guy Kibbee (Peabody), Ned Sparks (Barney), Aline MacMahon (Trixie Lorraine the comedienne)
The movie contains four scenes of singing and dancing :
We’re in the money, Pettin' in the Park, The Shadow Waltz et Remember My Forgotten Man.
6 We're in the money is less a song in praise of the dollar than at the supposed end of the economic crisis. It is in a way the return suggested of beautiful days, of carefreeness, of promising next days and money which abounds again. Except that, the currency here is in trompe-l'œil, the scenery is only cardboard and everything is in fact cheap junk. Is it just mockery or a true political message to the audience ? Both, no doubt. Ginger Rogers starred in this first sequence which took place during the routine rehearsal of a new show. This one was shot without real camera effect excepting an extraordinary close-up on her face.
Ginger had been frustrated to hold only a supporting role in 42nd Street but thanks to Melvin Le Roy, she is here propelled in the front of the screen from the very seconds of the movie. And she does not indeed miss talent. It is enough for convincing to see with which ease she devotes herself in a small number of Pig Latin (a impairment of the words made by adding syllables). As in 42nd Street and more particularly Young and Healthy, we find in the camera point of view a propensity to use close-ups which invade the entire screen so as to create a balance between the geometry of the ensemble movements in which blend the actors and the customized beauty of each of the dancers.
Some people see the will to highlight the link between the individual and the collective dynamism as policy inspired by the new President Franklin Roosevelt.
The most paradoxical in this scene where money seems so easy is due to the fact that she ends with a descent of bailiffs arriving in full rehearsal for an outrageous vulgar seizure procedure.
Ginger Rogers - I've got to sing a torch song
4 Franklin Roosevelt took the time to analyze the reasons of the crisis and its aftermath but he wants especially to stay pragmatic. First of all, he must reform the banking system and the financial markets to cheer the people of the country.
He asks them to overcome their fear and find the taste of the future. He is working in the aftermath to the implementation of an aid program to the most vulnerable: the unemployed, farmers in distress or daily laborers.
This resolutely interventionist policy does not give immediate results but the economy recovers gradually and Wall Street regains trust. The volunteerism displayed by the new President is however expensive and digs deficits. The New Deal which offers Roosevelt especially deserves to stop the trap of the social degradation and set up the bait of a financial regulation. It also marks a break with the liberal free trade practiced by all the former governments in favor of an administered economy, unprecedented in the United States. Among the measures introduced, including one banning for U.S. citizens to own gold and the willingness to break with the famous "gold standard". The decision is ratified on April 25.
One month later is signed the Tennessee Valley Act, a huge development project of the Tennessee River which must be one of the pillars of the New Deal. It aims to provide a real economic boost to an agricultural area hitherto neglected and weighed down by unemployment. This to make a new industrial pole by improving on one hand the navigability of the river and by erecting a series of dams to generate electricity. The workforce needs are considerable, it is the real lifeline that provides the federal state to this vast territory going from Georgia to Kentucky.
The musical year
5 Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf ? It is taking up this tune that the Three Little Pigs designed by Walt Disney become true movie stars in 1933. Seemingly intended for children, this animated cartoon is primarily a message to the American people, inviting them to roll up their sleeves and overcome the ordeals to regain trust in the future. There was afterward much submission on the nature of the big bad wolf in which one believed to see the symbol of the financial system which crushes shamelessly the weakest.
The three last years of crisis contributed to remodel the American musical landscape. Renown artists such as Paul Whiteman or Fletcher Henderson enjoy certainly a popularity rooted enough to pursue a notables' career but they follow from now on the new trends more than they did before. The young generation is taking over.
Big bands still influenced by the bouncy style of the 1920s fade gradually for lack of renewal. Isn’t it the beginning of a new era, that of the swing! The American society finds progressively the taste of new rhythms and entertainments. Become unavoidable, the jazz remains the key remedy thanks to the freedom given to musicians. It leaves free rein to improvisation and its tempo offers countless opportunities. In this way, Duke Ellington has already set back up to date the three-sound rhythm, returning at the same time to the spirit of the Lindy Hop, this acrobatic couple dance launched in the late 20s which is arguably the prototypical boogie-woogie and rock 'n' roll.
Cab Calloway, Don Redman, Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers always lead the race but things are moving. The Mills Blue Rhythm Band, Bunny Berigan, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, and now Benny Goodman front on stage. The producer John Hammond makes from his part a double blow: he organizes at the same time the return in studio of Bessie Smith, " the Empress of the Blues ", for a new series recordings and the launching of a 18-year-old young jazz singer in the very promising talent known as Billie Holiday. She occurs at the Covan's, a Harlem club where one has respite to praise her surprising maturity. Other artists also begin to emerge from the shadow, simply include trumpeter Henry " Red " Allen, pianist Teddy Wilson, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Chu Berry.
7 Movies are also changing period. After the gloom of 1931 and 1932 which have seen literally crambling the production of musicals, 1933 dedicates the resurrection of this genre and the beginning of a new golden age. Apart from the masterpiece that is 42nd Street, Warner Bros release following The Gold Diggers of 1933 and Footlight Parade, two movies in the same type which fill the dark rooms. In it three reasons: the score was each time assigned to the winning duo Harry Warren and Al Dubin while the choreography is the work of an uncategorized character, both brilliant and extravagant, Busby Berkeley. It third includes actors Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers or Joan Blondell gone in few months from the status of unknown to that of stars. Some of the songs appearing in these three films are true smash hits like, Shadow Waltz, Shanghai Lil, Remember my forgotten man, We're in the Money or By a waterfall.
While Warner is recovering, Metro Godwyn Mayer makes a real hit with Dancing Lady starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. The movie is not a musical but marks Fred Astaire's first fleeting appearance performing his own character, the time for him to show his talent in a rather incredible routine at the end of which he stands on a flying carpet together with his partner. It is however with RKO that he holds his first great role in Flying Down to Rio, even if it is still a supporting one. His partner is none other than Ginger Rogers with whom he already forms a promising couple. Who doesn’t have indeed in memory the famous number of Carioca, this rather suggestive tango-like dance where couples evolve brow to brow.
Finally, in the remote competition that devote themselves production companies, the Paramount which was early in the year at the brink of bankruptcy succeeds in raising the head thanks to the release of I' m no Angel where we find sultry Mae West beside Cary Grant whose it is the first major role. The movie is a huge success. Mae West embodies there a show dancer and singer embedded in a complex love affair
8 Pettin’ in the Park is performed by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.
The lyrics are here unambiguous. The scene begins moreover with a close-up on the title of the book that Dick Powell begins to read aloud " Advice to those in love ".
Every night a body should relax
After all the wear and tear.
Get that oxygen your body lacks,
Get it in the open air.
Go and find a little rendezvous
Underneath the starry skies.
Take someone like me along with you
For a little exercise.
Pettin' in the park,
Pettin' in the dark,
First you pet a little,
Let up a little,
Then you get a little kiss...
The sequence which starts most conventionally in a falsely naive register soon intensifies until a brat in nappies and a capricious weather definitely come to disrupt the soft harmony which prevails between the regular customers of the park. Some instants become then very daring, even "naughty", as when the kid decidedly precocious raises a curtain behind which young women got soaked by the rain appear undressing in shadows, that even when they hastily take a staircase up unveiling by the way a discreet lingerie. The final in which Dick Powell cuts using an open box that gave him the mischievous toddler the metallic corset supposed to protect virtuous Ruby Keeler is a true snook to the most devious supporters of Puritanism.
Faced with this flood of provocations, these will eventually have the last word by imposing a rigorous censorship Code (Hays Code). But in the meantime, the audacity of Busby Berkeley seems without limit.
N.B. Ruby Keeler carries out solo her little tap-dance routine. Was it originally well planned or is Dick Powell so bad in this discipline to save as much? It is necessary to say that she possesses a very energetic personal technique. She hammers the ground in a quite catchy singular way, far from the fluidity which characterizes Fred Astaire. It is certainly her very personal footwork which, somewhere, makes of her a so appreciated artist.
The facetious toddler is none other than Billy Barty, the most famous dwarf of Hollywood who is already 9 years old at the moment. (He will notably be the hero of Willow, released in 1988).
9 Direction: Lloyd Bacon (Warner Bros)
Choreography : Busby Berkeley
Score : Harry Warren & Al Dubin; Dammy Fain & Al Kahan
Scenario: James Seymour et Manuel Seff
Actors : James Cagney (Chester Kent), Joan Blondell (Nan Prescot), Ruby Keeler (Bea Thorn), Dick Powell (Scotty Blair), Frank Mc Hugh, Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert, Dorothy Lamour, Ann Sothern….
The plot takes place at the advent of the talking pictures. In order to save his theater of the bankruptcy, Chester Kent (James Cagney) has the idea to set up short shows in the preamble of the main movie. The success of his formula is such as his associates ask him to organize similar prologues throughout the country. He soon collides with a new competitor but manages in taking up the challenge thanks to Nan Prescot's support (Joan Blondell) his secretary fallen in love with him.
The most famous both musical sequences are By a Waterfall, an impressive aquatic fantasy choreographed by Busby Berkeley and Shanghai Lil, the final apotheosis.
The Shadow Waltz, performed by Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell.
11 Busby Berkeley succeeds in creating in this scene an atmosphere of grace and elegance perfectly matched with the slow pace of the waltz of the shadows. He uses there brilliantly the contrast of black and white, achieving even a technical feat by staging violins set by luminescent neons. For the occasion, Ruby Keeler even unusually dressed with a platinum wig.
This sequence has however a history. The luminous violins raised real problems of insulation and the artists already complained of unpleasant tingling when in full shooting occured one of these earthquakes who strike the Californian area in a recurring way. Short circuits blew up the entire facility and several extras were practically electrocuted. They had narrowly escaped the tragedy.
10 By a Waterfall
The score was for the occasion asigned to Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal.
Busby Berkeley shows in this musical number that he is never as much comfortable as in excess and extravagance. The filmgoers of the Great Depression were at their time impressed by the staging but it always fascinates in spite of its 80 years of age and pictures shot in black and white. It emerges from this neo-Babylonian aquatic fantasy a sensualism enhanced by a hint of eroticism and a freedom of movement which made some grind teeth as they seduced the largest audience.
Everything starts yet in a most ordinary way by a rural walk in the middle of a very Hollywood studio set. But it suddenly yawns to propel the viewer into an oniric universe, resolutely feminine. It is naturally about a dream. The rigor of positioning, synchronizing movements and flowing sequences express until immoderation Busby Berkeley's genius, his great capacity of synthesis combined with a permanent concern for aesthetics.
Everything depends on the actresses. They are the ones that make up the relief of the set. Let us especially point out how the uninterrupted movement of the camera succeeds in emphasizing the young women who "dabble" in the water (they are 200) by playing both on alternating the panoramic effects and medium-close-
ups as on the proliferation of shooting angles. It indeed constantly evolves from general plans to close-ups on expressive faces. As a result for the viewer is the impression of being in the middle of the pool and the frustration not to can give a name to each of these "bathing beauties".
12 "Remember my forgotten man” is performed by Joan Blondell and Etta Moten. This number shot in a style reminiscent of German expressionism is a tribute to the heroes of World War I struck since the beginning of the crisis by poverty and oblivion. The lyrics, the music and Joan Blondell's performance itself are undoubtedly the srongest moment in the movie.
The story is directly inspired by the current events with for theme the ingratitude displayed by the authorities towards the veterans of the Bonus Army. It first recalls a sad episode of the previous year during which their camp near the White House had unfairly been repressed by the army. Joan Blondell plays a girl of the street who, telling her own story, remembers the fate of this "forgotten man" torn away to go to war and that she lost forever. "Do not forget him," she said, "or you forget me.”
Her words are echoed by Etta Moten whose powerful voice raises the emotion of a notch before the last part which constitutes a vibrant moment of dramatic intensity. The popular jubilation which accompanies the parade of the soldiers and the sequences showing the bruises of the war and the loneliness of unemployment already keep the viewer in turmoil when the final and the return of Joan Blondell singing in the middle of the choir of veterans is deeply moving. Busby Berkeley who had been sent to Europe during the war handled the scene with a grand bareness, reducing sets to minima to favor the characters, their humanity and their despair.
We retain above all Joan Blondell’s performance and the fascinating expression of her face shot in very close-up so as the queuing unemployed whose camera details the portrait of each of these lost men behind which hides in fact the soul of America.
The wretch asleep on the sidewalk which comes to dislodge the policeman wears discreetly a Medal which is none other than the French War Cross. This was attributed to the American soldiers who had distinguished themselves by an act of bravery before United States create their own distinction.
This forgotten man appears in one of the most significant speeches of Franklin Roosevelt during his campaign. But while he was mentioned in a general way, Al Dubin personalized him in the song to strengthen his message.
It is no coincidence that Joan Blondell was preferred as performer to Ruby Keeler or Ginger Rogers. The expressive quality of her gaze filmed in close-up is indicative of a very wise choice. She appropriates the dramatic content of the song in a quite convincing way. It is perhaps the reason why the first words are recited. The real weight of the lyrics emerges, leaving to the voice of Etta Moten the care of strengthening the emotion. It is significant that she was chosen as vocalist for this performance of which the universal message wishes to overcome long-lived racial borders.
13 Shanghaï Lil
This musical number takes palce in Shanghai, the archetypal cosmopolitan city where migrants rub shoulders with exiles from the four corners of the world as well as military garrison. It enjoys at the time a sulfurous reputation due to the permissiveness of her manners and the abundance of places of depravity where is consumed opium.
The action takes place during a routine call of the Navy in a bar attended by Marines and prostitutes among whom a certain Shanghai Lil (Ruby Keeler), kind of fatal beauty that unleashes passions. Alcohol, drug, sex and violence are the ingredients which logically punctuate this number.
It ends by a wonderfully timed military parade, a drill which suits perfectly to Busby Berkeley who, is still remembered, was during his youth an instructor of the armies and a specialist of the parades. The sequence of martial tunes ends naturally with a series of patriotic snapshots as the appearance of " Stars and Stripes ", the portrait of President Franklin Roosevelt and finally of the Eagle of the NRA (National Recovery Administration), the agency recently created as part of the New Deal. The political message deserves to be clearly on the side of the Democrats.
The staging is swarming with finds such as the traveling at the counter on picturesque characters, the duet of tap-dancing on the same counter where we can recognize the dancer's talents of James Cagney, usually more known for his roles of temperamental bad boy, or still the strange atmosphere of the opium den where "lost" young women are " kicking the gong around ".
Joan Blondell (New YorkCity 1906 - Santa Monica (CA) 1979)
Both vaudeville actors, her parents transmit her very early the fiber comedy. She accompanies them on tours, until in Italy where she spent six years.
Back in the United States, the family settles down in Texas where Joan won in 1926 the title of Miss Dallas before being a few months later ranked 4th in the election of Miss America. She then suspends her university studies and goes to New York with the aim of becoming an actress. She plays in particular in 1930 together with James Cagney and gets noticed by Al Jolson whereby she obtains a contract with Warner Brothers.
After taking a supporting role in Public Enemy, released in 1931, she performs two years later in two major musical productions, The Gold Diggers of 1933 and Footlight Parade.
14 James Cagney (New York City 1899 – Stanfordville (NY) 1986)
We sometimes forget that this actor in the easy punch, better known for his rough-and -tumble roles, started in the early 1920s as a dancer on the vaudeville stage. He also devoted himself actively in this discipline by creating his own dance school and working as a choreographer in New York productions. It is through Al Jolson that he signed in 1929 a contract which binds him for seven years to Warner Brothers.
He holds his first major role in Public Enemy alongside Jean Harlow and Joan Blondell, a movie telling the rise of a young rowdy in the Chicago underworld. His character both violent and temperamental is inspired by Bugs Moran, a famous mobster of the era, often struggling with Al Capone. Success is considerable and launches his career in Hollywood. In genuine odd-job man, he realized in Footlight Parade an exceptional performance, as well as singer and actor but of course dancer, delivering even on the way a draft of moonwalk..
The essential hits of 1933 (1)
15 01 – The Dorsey Brothers feat. Mildred Bailey (Mildred Rinker – Tekoa (WA) 1907 –
Poughkeepsie (NY) 1951) – Doin’ the uptown lowdown 2:51 (Harry Revel, Mark Gordon)
The new swing just landed in Harlem. It is there that happens what's new.
Where do we get that music that puts that swing so hot in us?
Where is life, never dull, hum-drum or monotonous?
Hop a subway, hop a cab,
Shoot right up to Harlem
Where the population
Found a new sensation.
02 – The Boswell Sisters (Formed in New Orleans (LA) 1925 ) – Coffee in the morning 2:58 (Harry Warren, Al Dubin)
Connee Boswell performs in a quite interesting way this song from the movie "Moulin Rouge".
03 – Bing Crosby (Tacoma (WA) 1903 - Madrid (Spain) 1977) & the Dorsey Brothers – Here is my heart 2:57 (Leo Robin, Ralph Rainger)
04 – Bunny Berigan (Hilbert (WI) 1908 - New York 1942) – Stay on the right of the road 2:42 (Arlen Koehler, Rube Bloom)
05 – Cab Calloway (Rochester (NY) 1907 - Hockessin (DE) 1994) – Zah zuh zah 3:28 (Cab Calloway, Harry White)
After Hi-De-Ho, Cab Calloway continues his musical trip in the smoky Chinatown of Smokey Joe and Minnie the Moocher. The term "za-zou", peculiar to the nonconformist fashion adopted by the French youth during World War II, would have been borrowed in conformance with this song (Cab Calloway had passed in Paris to give a concert at Salle Pleyel in 1934 for an audience wholly acquired in his cause.
06 – Don Redman (Piedmont (WV) 1900) – New York (NY) 1964) – Our big love scene 3:14 (Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown)
07 – Bing Crosby – Temptation 3:07 (Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown)
This very first version of this title brought to become a big popular success was recorded with Lennie Hayton’s orchestra. Some true “tailor-made” for Bing Crosby as a " fatal crooner "
08 – Benny Goodman (Chicago (IL) 1909 – New York (NY) 1986) feat. Billie Holiday (Eleonora Fagan Gough – Baltimore (MD) 1915 – New York (NY) 1959) – Your mother’s son-in-law 2:48 (Alberta Nichols, Man Holiner)
A new era begins. There are of course the pace and the energy but also some musical sentences full of promises. At 18, the young Billie already possesses an incredible stage presence.
09 – Louis Armstrong (New Orleans (LA) 1901 – New York (NY) 1971) – Hobo, you can’t ride this train 3:00 (Louis Armstrong)
What a topical song! Much current events. The lyrics recall with humanity and optimism a universe where reigned very often the violence.
10 – Ethel Waters (Ethel Howard – Chester (PA) 1896 – Chattsworth (CA) 1977) & the Dorsey Brothers – Stormy weather 3:07 (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) - This song had been written for Cab Calloway but the coincidence wanted that he leaves the Cotton Club as it was presented by its authors. Ethel Waters seized it the first before it becomes the standard that everyone knows
11 – Dick Powell & Ruby Keeler – 42nd street 3:36 (Al Dubin, Harry Warren)
12 – Lee Wiley (Fort Gibson (OK) 1910 - New York (NY) 1975) – I gotta right to sing the blues 3:19 (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)
Les titres essentiels (2)
The essential hits of 1933 (2)
16 01 – Joan Blondell (New York (1906) – Santa Monica (CA) 1979) & Etta Moten (Weimar (TX) 1901 – Chicago (IL) 2004) – Remember my forgotten man (“Gold Diggers 1933” soundtrack) 6:26 (Harry Warren, Al Dubin)
02 – Bing Crosby (Tacoma (WA) 1903 - Madrid (Spain) 1977) – Young and healthy 3:07 (Harry Warren, Al Dubin)
Guy Lombardo & His Canadians perform in a peaceful way this cover of a key song created by Dick Powell in 42nd Street.
03 – Don Bestor (Langford (SD) 1889 – 1970) – Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? 2:44 (Frank Churchill, Ann Rondell)
Honorable bandleader for a dozen years, he has finally acquired a national fame by conducting the music of 42nd Street. The voices of the three little pigs are the ones of Mary Moder, Dorothy Compton and Billy Bletcher.
04 – Benny Goodman feat. Billie Holiday – Riffin’ the Scotch 2:34 (Johnny Mercer, Donald McDunough)
The vocal part is brief but sufficient to recognize the incredible talent displayed by the young Billie.
We recognize in the band Charlie Teagarden and Charly Clay on trumpet, Jack Teagarden on trombone, Artie Bernstein on double bass and Gene Krupa on drums.
05 – Ruth Etting (David City (NE) 1897 – Colorado Springs (CO) 1978) – Close your eyes 2:52 (Bernice Petkere)
The firtst performance of a torch song called to know a big success.
06 – Cab Calloway – Little town gal 3:14 (G.W. Wash Burns, Jeanne Burns)
Cab Calloway’s songs always mingled with a moral content. After the artificial paradises of Minnie the Moocher and Smokey Joe stuck in their drug addiction, he warns this time young girls of the countryside (coming especially from the South) not to yeld to the temptation of the city and of its disillusions.
07 – Mildred Bailey with The Casa Loma Orchestra – Heatwave 2:46 (Irving Berlin)
A heat wave which lands under the features of an attractive youth from Martinique. Mildred Bailey delivers a quite successful performance of this song introduced by Ethel Waters in the show A Thousand Cheers. Let us note that it is the first time in a successful Broadway musical that a black star was placed on the same level as the white actors.
08 – Ted Weems & His Orchestra (Pitcairn (PA) 1901 – Tulsa (OK) 1963) feat. Elmo Tanner - The Boulevard of Broken Dreams 2:56 (Al Dubin, Harry Warren)
Song written for the movie "Moulin Rouge"
09– The Boswell Sisters – Shine on harvest moon 3:15 (Jack Norwoth, Nora Bayes)
Cover of a hit introduced by Nora Bayes in 1919.
10 – Rudy Vallee & His Connecticut Yankees (Island Pond (VT) 1901 – North Hollywood (CA) 1986) – Orchids in the Moonlight 3:23 (Edward Ilescu, Gus
Kahn, Vincent Youmans)
A cover all in sensitivity of the famous tango composed for the movie Flying Down To Rio.
11 – Chick Bullock (Butte (MT) 1908 – CA 1981) – (When it’s) darkness on the Delta 2:48 (Marty Symes, Al J. Neiburg, Jerry Levinson)
Mildred Bailey had made a hit with this song the previous year
12 – Mills Blue Rhythm Band (formed in 1930) feat. Sally Gooding – Reaching for the cotton moon 3:05 (Green, Step)
Flying down to Rio
An allegedly "glamorous" duo
18 Gene Raymond (Raymond Guion - New York City , 1908 – Los Angeles (CA) 1998) – He attended the Professional Chidren's School which enabled him to start on the Broadway stage at the age of 17 years. With her blonde hair, her youthful exuberance and a physical advantage, he was quickly adopted by the movies to portray the juvenile leads. He shot particularly with Jean Harlow, Loretta Young and Bette Davis before becoming a partner Dolores Del Rio in Flying down to Rio. He married in 1937 the actress Jeanette McDonald.
Dolores Del Rio (Durango, Mexico 1905 – Newport Beach (CA) 1983) – Descended from a wealthy family of Spanish ancestry, she was also the cousin of the actor Ramon Navarro, one of the "sex symbols" of silent movies. Ruined during the Mexican Revolution, her parents came to settle down in Mexico City in the hope to recover and the young Maria Del Dolores took the opportunity to learn the ballet dance. It is during one of her shows that she met Jaime Martinez del Rio, one of the foremost heirs of the country whom she married while she was still only 16-year-old. Captivated by the beauty of the young woman, the producer Edwin Carewe convinced her to make a career in Hollywood. She became there one of the stars supervised by film directors such as Raoul Walsh and Clarence Brown. In spite of her Mexican accent, Dolores Del Rio quickly adapted to the requirements of the talkies and continued successfully her career until she is charged with other actors such as James Cagney and Ramon Navarro to promote Communist ideas in Hollywood.
The movie's credits
17 Direction: Thornton Freeland, (89 mn)
Based on a novel by Lou Brock and Anne Caldwell's play
score : music Vincent Youmans, lyrics Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu
Music Direction : Max Steiner
Special effects: Linwood Dunn
Actors : Gene Raymond (Roger Bond) , Dolores Del Rio (Belinha de Rezende), Ginger Rogers (Honey Hales), Fred Astaire (Fred Ayres).....
The bandleader and amateur pilot Roger Bond woos the beautiful Belinha despite the advice of his assistant Fred Ayles. He is accordingly fired by his employer but succeeds to hire his troupe in an upper-class hotel of Rio de Janeiro without knowing that this one is precisely managed by the father of Belinha. He declares his love to the young woman during a trip by plane in reply of which she admits him that she is already betrothed. During a rehearsal, Fred learns by the police that the hotel has no show license. Roger manages to save the situation by organizing a number of aerobatics with his dancers. And all's well that ends well.
Although he performs only the supporting role, Fred Astaire steals indubitably the spotlight from Gene Raymond and Dolores Del Rio. He forms for the first time a duo with Ginger Rogers, what explains some imperfections, but the movie has in a general way some qualities to be asserted. The love affair intended to be the plot ends up being relegated to the background, leaving the spectator under the spell of the couple Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire or that of the scantily clad young women involved with elegance in the numbers of aerobatics. In the purest South American-Hollywood style, the Carioca dance does not miss either attraction. We shall also retain the appealing sensualism of Dolores Del Rio and her subtle Mexican accent (a disability that did not notice the silent movies era but confines now here in portrayed roles).
Gene Raymond has, meanwhile, the benefits of the young man but certainly lacks relief contrary to Fred Astaire who does not stop focusing the attention thanks to three fundamental qualities that are his voice, his style and his comic sense.
The songs from the movie:
« Music Makes Me » , Ginger Rogers
« Carioca », Alice Gentle, Movita Castaneda, Etta Moten
« Flying Down To Rio », Fred Astaire
“Orchids In The Moonlight”, Paul Roulien
Fred Astaire - Flying down to Rio
19 Ted Fio Rito (Newark (NJ) 1900 – Scottsdale (AZ) 1970)
This son of Italian immigrants is 19 when he starts a pianist's career in the recording studios of Columbia in New York. He also composes his own songs and forms his first band in Detroit together with Dan
Russo with which he records from 1922.
After several years spent in Chicago, he moved San Francisco where he founded in 1929 the Edgewater Beach Hotel Orchestra.
He therefore contributes to many radio shows and acquires a great popularity. We can quote among the singers committed in his band, Candy Candido, Betty Grable, June Haver or Muzzy Marcellino.
Freddy Martin (Cleveland (OH) 1906 – Newport Beach (CA)1983)
He planned to become a journalist but his talents as an instrumentalist led him directly from the school to the band of Arnod Johnson then to that of Jack Albin with whom he realized his first recordings for Columbia in 1930.
Drummer and notorious saxophonist (he counted Chu
Berry among his admirers),
Freddy Martin did not delay
forming his own band and caught
the attention of Guy Lombardo who
agreed a moment his services.
We recognize by him to have been
at the origin of the style " Tenor
Band " which is characterized by
the ascendancy granted to
saxophones in the melodic section.
The essential hits 1933 (3)
21 Mae West
(Brooklyn (NY) 1892 – Los Angeles
The daughter of a private detective
and a model, the little Mae shows
from the childhood aptitude for the
theater. She won several
contests which lead her from
the age of 14 years on the
She makes her debuts in the
vaudeville before appearing in
various Broadway shows, often
performing the most unexpected
In spite of her talent and an
advantageous physical appearance,
her career is however slow to start.
In 1926 she finally takes the world
by storm with Sex, a play which
she wrote herself and staged and
in which she holds the leading role. While it has been performed for several months and meets a great success, the show is suddenly banned by the police for obscenity. Mae West is even sentenced to ten days in jail. Far from harming her, the event knows such an echo as her fame is definitively acquired. She then catches attention for her stand in favor of the rights of women and homosexuals, not hesitating to evolve in the register of provocation.
Deeply saddened by her mother's death , she decides to move away from New York and signs in 1932 a contract with Paramount which leads her on the Hollywood stages. She becomes fast, in spite of her 38 years, a new sex symbol of the screen and enters the legend for her comebacks and outspokenness.
22 Bunny Berigan (Hilbert (WI) 1908 - New York (NY) 1942)
True child prodigy, he plays early the violin and the trumpet and is still a teenager when he leads his first band. Hired by Hal Kemp as trumpeter soloist at the beginning of year 1930, he moves with the group for a tour across England. Back in America, he rents his services for studio recordings, what allows him to play for renowned musicians as Freddie Rich, Freddy Martin or Ben Selvin. He works then a moment with Paul Whiteman and forms in parallel his own band while he begins to suffer from problems related to alcoholism.
Lee Wiley (Fort Gibson (OK) 1906
- New York (NY) 1975)
Native of a lost village in Oklahoma, she would have
been told to count up distant Cherokee ancestors.
On the benches of the school, she was already
dreaming to be a singer and rushes whenever she can
on the records of Bessie Smith and her idol Ethel
She finds even an employment of vocalist and pianist
at age 15 in the nearby city of Tulsa where she goes
from the output of the class.
This job is not the taste of her mother, but the young
Lee has character and prefers leaving home.
She goes to St Louis then to Chicago and finally to New York where she takes part from 1931 in the radio program of the bandleader Leo Reisman. She meets later the composer Victor Young with whom she starts a sentimental relationship. They record together in 1933 some songs which soon become hits.
Lee Wiley is however prone to mood swings making hard the work with colleagues. Little patient, often hasty, she possesses on the other hand an exceptional, particularly thrilling voice. There is in her of the nonchalance, the nostalgia, some distance, sweetness and depth. While she lives an often stormy life, sometimes even hectic, her voice is paradoxically the one of the soul, both peaceful and captivating.
The essential hits of 1933 (4)
23 01 – Ray Noble Orchestra (Brighton (Sussex) 1903 – London 1978) feat. Al Bowlly (Lourenço Marques (Mozambique) – London 1941) – Dinner at eight 3:14 (Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh)
02 – Lee Wiley with Victor Young (Chicago(IL) 1900 – Palm Springs (CA) 1956) & His Serenaders – You’re an old smoothie 3:05 (Buddy DeSilva, Nacio Herb Brown, Richard A. Whiting)
03 – The Mills Brothers (Formed in Cincinnati (OH) 1924) – Smoke rings 2:53 (Gene Gifford, Ned Washington)
04 – Bessie Smith (Chattanooga (TN) 1894 – Clarksdale (MS) 1937) - I’m down in the dumps 3:11(Lana Wilson, Wesley Wilson)
With her powerful voice and her inimitable way to sing "the blues", Bessie Smith is for the public a true icon. She embodies currently
the nostalgia for these 20s when everything was much
better. She makes her come-back after a slump due to the
advent of the talkies and to the flop in 1929 of her last show
on Broadway. John Hammond who produces her return to
the studios has surrounded her for the circumstance with the
finest musicians in New York including Jack Teagarden on
trombone, Frankie Newton on trumpet, Chu Berry on
saxophone, Bobby Johnson on guitar and Benny Goodman
Bessie however struggles to adapt to the new songs
which are offered to her and prefers to resume the style of
performance that made her success. This will be her last
05 – Louis Armstrong – I’ve got the world on a string 3:17
(Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)
The song was written one year earlier for
Cab Calloway but Louis
Armstrong found there the
opportunity to showcase his
skills as a soloist and
his vocal control.
06 – Paul Whiteman (Denver (CO)
1890 – Doylestown (PA) 1967)
feat. Ramona Davies (Lockland
(OH) 1909 – Sacramento (CA) 1972)
Turn back the clock 2:11 ()
Paul Whiteman contents with
ringing a clock, leaving the open
field with Ramona Davies and
her " grand piano ". Sorry for the
sound quality of the video,
has suffered over time.
07 – Cab Calloway – The Scat song 3:07 (Edwin Swayzee)
Nothing more to say on this artist who really excels at this kind of performance.
08 – Mae West (Brooklyn (NY)
1892 – Los Angeles (CA) 1980) – I want you, I need you 2:36 (Harry Brooks, Alain Dubois, Ben Ellison)
09 – Jack Teagarden (Vernon (TX) 1905 – New Orleans (LA) 1964) –
Somebody stole Gabriel’s horn 2:55 (Irving Mills)
10 – Leo Reisman (Boston (MA) 1897 – Miami (FL) 1961) feat. Harold Arlen (Hyman Arluck - Buffalo (NY) 1905 – New York (NY) 1986) – Happy as the
day is long 2:23 (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)
It is not everyday but the composer performs here personally his song. Would it mean that he was not satisfied by Duke Ellington's version?
11 – Clarence Williams’ Jug Band (Plaquemine (LA) 1893 –
New York (NY) 1965) & Eva Taylor – Shim sham shimmy dance 3:02
(Clarence Williams, Andy Razaf)
Clarence William certainly belongs to a generation of musicians which had
its heyday during the previous decade and the "jug" has become a rather
picturesque accessory but this song does not lack character.
12 – Don Bestor (Langford (SD) 1889 - 1970) feat. Neil Buckley – I’ve got
to pass your house 3:30 (Lew Brown)
The early days of Country Music
24 We got used to link the birth of the music Country music to the recordings made in 1927 by Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family while this musical genre had, at the time, not yet acquired its own identity. In fact, several influences emerged of it but it remained to develop a synthesis of all the musical trends which are expressed in the land of Dixie, between tradition and modernity. Most of the songs are connected on the other hand with the blues and they are always related to this category. Certain outlines take shape however since Nashville,Tennessee became the regular gathering of fans of the " hillbilly " style. Firstly reserved for fiddlers, the Grand Ole Opry founded in 1925 welcomes indeed every week more and more amateurs who flanked by their Dobro guitar, their banjo and their voices show the infatuation of the audience for a music from their roots.
The essential hits of Country Blues
25 01 – Jimmie Rodgers (Meridian (MS) 1897 – New York (NY) 1933) – Mississippi Delta Blues 3:28 (Jimmie Rodgers, Jack Neville)
02 – Jimmie Davis (Quitman (LA) 1899 – Baton Rouge (LA) 2000 ) – Easy Rider blues 2:55 (Jimmie Davis, Joan Sommer)
03 – Roy Acuff (Maynardville (TN) 1903 – Nashville (TN) 1992) – Wabash Cannonball 2:52 (A.P. Carter)
04 – The Delmore Brothers (Alton & Rabon Delmore – Formed in Elkmont (AL) 1926) – Lonesome jailhouse blues 2:52 (Delmore Brothers)
05 – Jimmie Rodgers – Old love letters 3:08 (Dwight Butcher, Jimmie Rodgers)
06 – Gene Autry (Tioga Springs (TX) 1907 – Los Angeles (CA) 1998) – The last Round-up 3:19 (Billy Hill)
07 – The Delmore Brothers – Brown’s Ferry blues 2:37 (Delmore Brothers)
08 – Bill Cox (Kanawha County (KY) 1897 - 1968) – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s back again 2:53 (Bill Cox)
09 – Jimmie Rodgers – Somewhere below the Mason Dixon Line 2:58 (Jimmie Rodgers, Will Ryan)
10 – Roy Acuff – Great speckled bird 3:01 (Guy Smith)
11 – Bill Cox – N.R.A. blues 2:51 (Bill Cox)
12 – The Delmore Brothers – Gonna lay down my old guitar 3:00 (Delmore Brothers)
The Great Depression of Blues
27 1933 will remain as a year of harsh scarcity for bluesmen. Seeing the collapse of their sales, record labels choose to close their additional studios. For most musicians, heading up to New York is too expensive and represents a real headache especially as they are already struggling to live exclusively from their music. Many are forced to find work somewhere else. Thus few novelties for this transitional year. There are however always confirmed talents as Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie, Josh White and of course Charley Patton to which come to appoint some beginners as Roosevelt Sykes or still Buddy Moss, a whiz kid discovered previous year beside Blind Blake.
Among the events of the year, let us include the revival of Leadbelly, this pioneer of blues been born in 1888 in the border of Louisiana and Texas who is currently languishing in the awful prison of Angola. His life has until there mainly served to fuel the headings of news items. Trained in accordion and in guitar, he wrote his first song in 1912, called The Titanic. He then played together with the young prodigy Blind Lemon Jefferson in Dallas prior to the beginning for him of endless troubles with the law. He was imprisoned for the first time in 1915 for "carrying a pistol" but succeeded to escape. He returned shortly after to jail further to the murder of one of his friends.
Sentenced to 35 years in prison, he managed to obtain his pardon after writing to the governor of Texas a song asking him his forgiveness. His respite was only short-term because he joined again the penitentiary in 1930, after manslaughter's attempt. This is where he has by chance to meet the famous musicologist John Lomax, known as the specialist of the musical memory of the South. This one is immediately impressed by the tenor voice of Leadbelly and saves it on a small portable equipment. His song called " Irene, Goodnight Irene " is quickly edited and becomes a hit. Leadbelly will not be long to secure his release.
Jimmie Rodgers passes away in New York May 26, 1933
26 It already made a few years
that he struggled against tuberculosis.
Exhausted, he had to waive most of
his tours but agreed to return to
studio for a series of recordings.
Arrived at New York on May 17th, he is unfortunately compelled to interrupt regularly the takes to go to rest in his hotel. He manages however to record 4 tracks on the first day and then the famous " Mississippi Delta Blues "
which will soon be in a way his testamentary song. He is so weakened that his producers arrange a couch in the studio but this is not enough. Unable to keep going, he dies in the hotel of a lung bleeding.
His body is repatriated in his home town of Meridian ( MS) to be buried.
Considered as the " father of the Country music ", his influence will be crucial to a large number of artists from blues to rock music.
Roy Acuff (Maynardville (TN) 1903 – Nashville (TN) 1992)
Born into a prominent family, (his grandfather had been senator of Tennessee), the young Roy learns very early the music with a father minister who is also a confirmed violinist and of a mother who plays the piano. He is however more interested in sport and turns at the end of his studies towards a career of baseball player. He joins then the Knoxville Smokies but his experiment runs over further to a serious sunburn. After a period of uncertainty, he decides to recover in the violin and begins to occur in local parties. It is there that he gets noticed by a
certain Dr Hauer who hires him in his traveling Medicine Show. Roy Acuff is assessed by the clarity and the power of his voice, a non-negligible quality in the absence of microphone. He forms in 1933 the Tennessee Crackerjacks with which he makes his first performances on Knoxville radio. The band includes in particular the guitarist Clell Summey, remarkable by his new Dobro, an acoustic guitar fitted with a conical metal resonator which allows to mechanically amplify the vibrations of strings.
Bill Cox (Kanawha County (KY) 1897 - 1968)
Nicknamed the Dixie Songbird, he works at first in a tools factory of Charleston ( WV) before performing for the first time in 1927 on the local radio station. He stands out for his qualities of singer, guitarist and harmonicist. His first recordings dated 1929 demonstrate a wide influence of Jimmie Rodgers. He signs a contract to ARC in 1933 where he will write some hits of the year including NRA Blues, a song on the misleading effects of the N.R.A ( National Recovery Administration).
The creation of the N.R.A. ( National Recovery
Administration) was the most symbolic
measure of the New Deal.
This administration which had to support
the implementation of the policy decided
by the federal government would relaunch the
economic activity by offering companies a code
of conduct. These had to make a commitment to set
together the prices of the goods and the minimum
wage to be paid to workers. Considering that the
crisis was due to a misguided competition, the
new organized politics aimed at moralizing the
market and generating jobs.
The idea was generous but did not miss candor.
The business world opposed to it with one such
virulence as the agency was discredited and as the NRA was abandoned in 1935 having been declared unconstitutional.
The essential "blues"
28 01 – Blind Willie McTell (Thomson (GA) 1901 – Almon (GA) 1959) - Warm it up to me 2:57 (Willie McTell)
02 – Charley Patton (Bolton (MS) 1891 – Indianola (MS) 1934 ) – Jersey Bull Blues 3:09 (Bill Broonzy, Charley Patton)
03 – Roosevelt Sykes (Elmar (AR) 1906 – New Orleans (LA) 1983) – Devil’s Island Gin Blues 3:03 (Sykes)
04 – Joshua White (Greensboro (NC) 1914 – Manhasset (NY) 1959) – Jesus gonna make up my dying bed 2:52 (Calawaty, Traditional)
05 – Buddy Moss (Jewell (GA) 1914 – Atlanta (GA) 1984) – Bye bye Mama 2:50 (Moss)
06 – Lucille Bogan (Lucille Anderson – Amory (MS) 1897 - Los Angeles (CA) 1948) – Shave’em dry 2:53 (Traditional, Bogan)
07 – The Sparks Brothers (Aaron & Marion Saprks – Tupelo (MS) 1897) – Down on the levee 3:34 ()
08 – Memphis Minnie (Lizzie Douglas – Algiers (LA) 1897 – Memphis (TN) 1973) – Too late 2:59 (Douglas, McCoy)
09 – Walter Roland (Birmingham (AL) 1900 - 1970) – T Model Blues 3:03 ()
10 – Blind Willie & Kate McTell – Death cell Blues 3:17 (McTell)
11 – Buddy Moss – B & O Blues 2:40 (Moss)
12 – Memphis Minnie – Hoodoo Lay Blues 3:03 (Douglas, McCoy)
Lucille Bogan (Lucille Anderson –
Amory (MS) 1897 – Los Angeles (CA) 1948)
Married to a railroad employee, she recorded her first songs from 1923 for Okeh Records accompanied with the pianist Henry Calles. She was especially the first singer of blues to record in other studios than those of New York and Chicago. Lucille got her first big success in 1927 with Sweet Petunia released by Paramount. It is under Bessie Jackson's pen name that she wrote the lyrics of her songs usually devoted to alcohol, drugs or prostitution.
Her team-work with pianist Walter Rolland allowed to achieve her best sales between 1933 and 1935 with tracks which were afterward covered by other artists.
42nd-street.fr - Gerard Tondu
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