American Songs and Musicals in the "Thirties"
The day dawns
1 What first can be drawn from the New Deal and the economic policy introduced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt? The emergency social measures made their effect but it is still to create stable jobs. The Civil Works Administration certainly helped to provide some work to several million jobless persons but unable to assume longer the cost of this disposal, the Federal government has to give up pursuing the experiment while waiting for implementing financially less burdensome systems. The upturn of the industrial activity delays in fact and business managers hardly show goodwill.
Washington has therefore no choice but to risk confrontation. The Roosevelt administration opts for interventionist action by introducing in particular the Wagner Act which increases the power of labor unions to face the reluctance of companies to set up the new devices.
The politics of the government is not unanimously. The business circles accuse especially the President of betraying the class from which he is himself derived. But they are also democratic voters from the Southern States who see a dim view the place granted to associations for the defense of the rights of the black population.
The year is refered in the annals of meteorology as the hottest which have never known the United States. And this is the Midwest which has more than the others to suffer from extreme weather conditions. The drought seems to have settled down irreparably in the stricken state of Oklahoma. Swept by particularly destructive winds of dust (usually called dust bowls),
the ground has become
infertile, urging the farmers to leave their lands. The Congress adopts the law known as Jones-Connally to help them. The studies conducted to try to understand the origins of this phenomenon do not delay highlighting the misdeeds of intensive agriculture, responsible according to them of the disappearance of a flora essential to the stabilization and the moistening of soils. It is not thus about a fate but rather about a call to order from the nature. In the meantime, they are thousands of totally ruined families who have to take the way of exodus towards California.
While the United States strive hard to go out
of the Depression, the world is entering a
period of turbulences. For its part,
the American government promised the
Filipinos whose they occupied the islands
since their war against Spain that they will
be independent in 1945. They have also just
put an end to fifteen years of presence in
Meanwhile, Europe attends with mixed
feelings of fear and fascination the irresistible
rise of Hitler and Nazi ideology. In USSR,
Stalin has completed his program of
collectivization of the land regardless of the
future of the peasants and gets ready to impose
a new moral order of the most reactionary.
In Far East, Japan raided China in justifying
its violence in the name of civilization.
It is still nothing that a rock where nest gulls but its name will soon become for some a sinister symbol: Alcatraz Island, located in San Francisco Bay acquires the status of federal prison in January 1934.
All the mobsters will not however be luvky enough to taste the stern charm of its cells. While the organized underworld leads its business in a well structured way, others prefer to take alone the road to perdition. Often issued from modest backgrounds and provincial towns, they distinguish themselves at first by small robberies before falling in the crime. They move gradually to violence and murder, playing with their life as with others. Newspapers are fond of this kind of characters of which they make their headlines. Their adventures keep readers in suspense like a detective series that would unfold live. Their run makes actually of them almost legendary heroes before they fall logically under the Feds bullets.
3 John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson
Two days only having escaped from the prison of Crown Point, Indiana, John Dillinger robs on March 6th the Security National Bank at Sioux Falls (SD). On March 13th, he raids the agency of the First National Bank in Mason City (IA). May 4th, the branch of Fostoria (OH) is struck in its turn and on June 30th, Dillinger and his gang ransack the Merchants National Bank in South Bend (IN). Baby Face Nelson is part of the group but unlike Dillinger who often goes as a Robin Hood of modern times, he does not hesitate to kill in cold blood. The Department of the Justice offers a $ 25 000 reward for the capture of Dillinger, dead or alive. The real manhunt gets organized then. He is finally spotted and discreetly followed.
On July 22, he is shot down in full session in a Chicago Theater by the FBI agents . The police began to pursue the rest of the gang. The next day, Homer Van Meter, is killed in St Paul (MN) but Baby Face Nelson manages to escape. After several months of investigation, the FBI found him Nov. 27 in Barrington (WI) together with his wife Helen Gillis and one of his side-kicks John Paul Chase. It follows a shootout during which both special agents Ed Hollis and Samuel Cowley are killed. Baby Face finally succumbs to his injuries. Helen Gillis will spend a year in jail and Chase board for a long time at Alcatraz.
Bonnie & Clyde
May 23rd, after two years of a bloody run which already made a dozen dead, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow fall near Gibsland (LA) in the ambush tended by the four Texas police officers who are on their heels. Both gangsters are killed even before being able to replicate. The legend seizes quickly the young criminals whereas settles down a controversy about the conditions of their death. The policemen emptied the chargers of their guns on the fugitives, was it very necessary? Was it not first to avenge the death of two colleagues shot down one month earlier by the couple murderer? The cinema will make them afterward romantic heroes, idealistic anarchists.
Pretty Boy Floyd
Known for police services for various robberies since the 1920s, Charles Arthur Floyd's criminal career really starts only after his escape of the Prison of State of Ohio. He is initially suspected of the murder of two bootleggers of Kansas City on March 25th, 1931, then of four other crimes of which the one who costs the life to the sheriff of McIntosh County, Oklahoma. He is finally declared "public enemy n°1 " further to the Massacre of Kansas City occurred on June 17th, 1933 in which four policemen were killed. Floyd denies being the author but the FBI turns hot on his heels. He is finally located on October 18th, 1934 in Buffalo, New York. The noose is tightening around him. On October 22nd, he is shot dead in a field, not far from East Liverpool, Ohio. The actual circumstances of his death continue to be debated.
5 1934 is also and finally the year of the invention of the nylon, the creation of the TWA, the birth of the comic strip hero Flash Gordon and of the opening of the famous Brookfield Zoo in the suburb of Chicago, the first one to replace the traditional cages by real landscaped spaces.
Frank Capra’s movie It Happened One Night starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert is sacred best film of the year. Among other successes, let us quote The Scarlet Empress directed Josef Von Sternberg starring Marlene Dietrich and Viva Villa with Wallace Beery.
The musical is not left out, without reaching however the level of the previous year. Couples are in the spotlight:
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, of course, take the spotlight in The Gay Divorcee, a gorgeous remake of the show which triumphed on Broadway two years earlier.
Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette McDonald are the heroes of The Merry Widow directed by Ernst Lubitsch, a true masterpiece inspired from the Franz Lehar's operetta.
Busby Berkeley hits hard again with Dames, a musical in which we find with pleasure the couple Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler but also Fashions of 1934 the choreography of which stages the "sexiest" showgirls in Hollywood.
And then offload to the silver screen a small five year old heroin, Shirley Temple. She has already played in diaper but gets now promoted with the release of two films in which she occupies the leading role. She is not without reminding of Baby Rose Marie by her facial expressions and her sense of reply on the verge of nerve.
The year in music
2 Should we really believe that the crisis is over ? By searching well, perhaps should we actually succeed in convincing ourselves that the new songs show a hint of optimism. It is true that the lyrics evince less nostalgia and fewer regrets of the past than during the previous years. The beautiful days seem outright back. The year looks even very hot (it will be it moreover literally) according to Bing Crosby who does not hesitate to see June in January. After the winter of the Great Depression, the spring thus seems to hatch such this Honeysuckle Rose which blossoms again under Fats Waller’s magic fingers. It was time for him to make a name after years spent to compose and play for others. Duke Ellington regained his place at the Cotton Club meantime deserted by Cab Calloway left for his part to the conquest of the European audience, just as Louis Armstrong whom triumphant tour drives until Scandinavia.
The big hitters of the moment share as usual the successes of the year whereas a few new talents complement the list. Ethel Merman, for example is no longer strictly speaking a newcomer since she won for three years successes on Broadway but she appears finally on the silver screen in two musicals. Wini Shaw is also known thanks to the film. We do not still speak about her, she is just 17 years old and has just begun as stage dancer at the Cotton Club, but her talent will eventually burst one day, she is Lena Horne. Charlie Barnet renounces a brilliant announced career of lawyer to make a noticed entrance in the top quite as Claude Hopkins and his very swingy I can' t dance, I got ants in my pants. Maybe should the laurels however go in this torrid year, to Jimmie Lunceford and his musicians who just moved to the Cotton Club where they display their Hot Jazz, a swing style to the sometimes frenetic rhythm. The most symbolic track of this trend is certainly White Heat, an only instrumental cocktail in the most tireless tempo. The first bars are already without appeal, we change time!
White Heat is due to the composer and arranger Will Hudson, the father of the swing, who worked in particular for Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. Jimmie Lunceford leads the band whose musicians are for the less outstanding : Paul Webster on trumpet, Willie Smith on saxophone and Joe Thomas on sax tenor, Trummy Young the trombone, Moses Allen on double bass.
And then comes the drama. Russ Columbo, the famous crooner who three years earlier wanted to dethrone Bing Crosby has hardly just revived his film career when he dies in tragic circumstances. On September 2nd, during a visit to his friend the photographer Lansing Brown, he is watching his collection of firearms when a gun goes off accidentally hitting him indirectly in the eye. Transported to the hospital in Los Angeles in a desperate state, he dies a few hours later. The surgeons could not do anything. He was 26.
Jimmie Lunceford - White Heat
After the dust bowl
& Dale Arden
Ginger & Fred (Act I)
4 The Gay Divorcee
They have already danced together on the air of Carioca in Flying down to Rio but it is the first time that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers both perform the main roles in a musical. At 35, Fred Astaire is already a veteran of the stage. He triumphed on Broadway for many years but in spite of several attempts, Hollywood has long refused to grant him his chance. He had even a few years earlier been found unfit of shooting for the movies, qualified bad actor, bad singer and poor dancer. The error is finally repaired.
The Gay Divorcee is originally a play which Fred Astaire knows well. He has somehow created it in 1932 on Broadway alongside the actress Claire Luce. He even performed the song which has already hit the minds, Night and Day.
The Gay Divorcee begins as a comedy of manners which gradually turns into a love story. This is what is known as a screwball comedy, a package involving concerns of the married life, humor, comic situations, a love affair and some misunderstanding of circumstances, the whole in an essentially conventional environment.
It is worth noting that the original title, The Gay Divorce, having been
because it could suggest to the public that a divorce could be a joyful affair, has been subject to censorship by the addition of a terminal e. The divorce being consumed, the divorcee has therefore more freedom to act as she pleases. That is reminiscent of the concept of The Merry Widow which is released on screens at the same moment.
Feeling abandoned by a husband too often in journey, Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers) seeks the way to get the divorce. Her Aunt Hortense suggests her a scenario in which she would be surprised in the midst of an adulterous relationship. The affair does not however go as expected. The man tipped to play the lover is not there and this is another who takes his place, despite himself. It turns out that he is Guy Holden (Fred Astaire), the dancer Mimi had already briefly crossed some time ago and who had secretly fallen in love with her. His arrival disrupts the plan until an unexpected turnaround requires the true husband to agree to a divorce having been seen together with another woman.
Director : Mark Sandrich (distribution RKO)
Screenplay: Kenneth Webb et Samuel Hoffenstein sur un livret de Dwight Taylor
Score: Cole Porter, Con Conrad & Herb Magidson, Harry Revel & Mack Gordon
Casting : Fred Astaire (Guy Holden), Ginger Rogers (Mimi Glossop), Alice Brady (Tante Hortense), Edgar Everett Horton (Egbert “Pink” Fitzgerald), Erik Rhodes (Rodolfo Tonetti), Lilian Mils, Betty Grable
The songs of the movie
The Continental (Con Conrad, Herb Magidson) performed by Ginger Rogers, Erik Rhodes and Lilian Miles
Don't let it bother you (Harry Revel, Mark Gordon) ,Fred Astaire
Let's K-nock K-nees (Harry Revel, Mark Gordon), Betty Grable, Edgar Everett Horton
Needle in a haystack (Con Conrad, Herb Magidson) Fred Astaire
Night an day (Cole Porter) Fred Astaire
Night and day
Betty Grable & Edgar Everett Horton - Let's K-nock an K-nees
La nuit et le jour, le noir et le blanc... le film joue en permanence sur le contraste et la complémentarité des tons, décors et costumes, jusqu’aux voitures. Le duo que nous proposent Ginger Rogers et Fred Astaire atteint là une sorte de perfection. La fluidité des gestes, leur épure même, la souplesse des enchaînements et la parfaite fusion entre la musique et la danse en font un modèle du genre. Même un public profane ne peut qu’être séduit par l’élégance classique et le charme esthétique de cette scène.
La Duesenberg de Ginger Rogers
The white car driven by
Ginger Rogers in the
movie as well as in life is
none other than the
Model J output in 1929.
When his firm of
Indianapolis was acquired
in 1926 by the Auburn
Automobile Company, his
new boss asked
Fred Duesenberg to design
simply " the most beautiful car in the world ". And he made it.
Known as the most powerful American car of the 30s, the Model J is before all the perfect example of what could be at the time luxury and perfection, in this area.
Direction : Ray Enright
Choreography : Busby Berkeley
Score : Harry Warren and
Screenplay : Delmer Daves
Casting: Dick Powell (Jimmy Higgens),
Ruby Keeler (Barbara Hemingway),
Joan Blondell (Mabel Anderson), Zasu Pitts
(Matilda Ounce Hemingway), Guy Kibbee
(Horace Peter Hemingway), Hugh Herbert (Ezra Ounce)
Would the cinema have already gone too far? It is in any case what argue the hardliners of the moral rigor. Frustrated by the repeal of the Prohibition, they got down to a new target, the film industry. It was not entirely new, Mae West was not least remembered for having been sentenced to prison for her comedy Sex, deemed obscene even when all New York rushed there. The Hays Code of the name of his initiator the Republican William Hays enacts from 1934 rules intended to set moral values on behalf of the viewers' interest. The authority in charge of its enforcement is led by the very Catholic Joseph Breen, a censor with doubtless zeal. Without claiming that this code will deprive the artistic creation of freedom, it is clear that it will call through the movies a stereotypical representation of American society, both staid and prudish. It certainly prohibits the scenes of violence and cruelty, especially to animals but will also insist on the primacy of Christian values such as family and marriage. Nudity will be banned from the screen, homosexuality should appear as a deviation, blasphemous comments will be banned, suggestive dances, lascivious scenes and interracial intimacy prohibited.
The Hays Code quickly imposes its claw in Hollywood where it is required from the studios themselves to watch to comply with the new specifications. It is from now on risky to try to reproduce the musicals which made the successes of the previous year, the censorship is ready to cut the movie if necessary.
Dames makes in a way the first tests of the new morality with a quite pleasing result despite a rather poor success on its release. The subject of the movie deals exactly with the confrontation between those who approve a return to Puritanism and the defenders of freedom, taunting with wit and humor the hypocrisies and the nauseous secrets of the first ones. Busby Berkeley, whose choreographies are in the crosshairs of censorship for some sexual innuendo however achieves a real feat without giving up the extravagance and the immoderation of his sequences.
One finds with pleasure the actors in contract with Warner who made the success of 42nd Street and Footlight Parade , Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell and Guy Kibbee.
10 I only have eyes for you (Music : Harry Warren; Lyrics : Al Dubin)
Busby Berkeley insists in this scene, as he used to do in his other movies, on the set of black and white contrasts (see. " Young and Healthy " in 42nd Street). His choreography is on the other hand of an amazing sobriety, demonstrating once again his disinterest for the dance stages in favor of ambitious geometrical combinations. He plays on the continual mobility of the camera and its effects of "zoom", constantly alternating close-ups, travelling platforms, panoramic fields, high angle shots or tilt-ups. Busby Berkeley creates in this way a setting both uncluttered and monumental which livens up around some symbolic accessories in the middle of which the young women form a kind of perpetual motion. He maximizes the topic of the song by focusing attention on Ruby Keeler, causing a real confusion between the artist herself and her portrait multiplied to infinity in order to perfectly suit the spirit of the text. The effect of cloning is original and surprising although some have seen fit to make a connection with some ideological concerns of the time.
The song made afterward the object of very numerous versions, sometimes excellent (Editor’s note: among them The Flamingos (1959) and Art Garfunkel (1975).
Dames will mark the end of the couple Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler. Feeling less fine than in the previous movies, the actress reveals here some limitations.
Ginger Rogers's Duesenberg
7 The Continental
The score of the original screenplay had been entirely assigned to Cole Porter but the film production retained only Night and Day, leaving up to Con Conrad and Herb Magidson to compose new songs. The Continental is undoubtedly the most brilliant of all and it is not a coincidence if it was rewarded with an Oscar. It takes about 22 minutes to share the successive performances of Ginger Rogers, Erik Rhodes, Lilian Miles and a dance routine which, according to the trailer includes not less than half of the most beautiful girls in Hollywood. The choice of black and white outfits such as likes a director as Busby Berkeley turns unfortunately here in the kind caricature.
9 The Gay Divorcee, a well-behaved movie?
It is generally considered as a turning point in the use of the chorus girls whose performances on the screen and outfits were deemed too daring next to the conventions of Puritan America. One thinks on by comparison to the Busby Berkeley’s choreographies but the most critical minds had also taken for targets these young women often blamed for their slight manners, sometimes even led astray. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers invite, on the other hand, the public in an aseptic world devoted to ideal love, celibate and romantic. No eager embrace, no burning kiss, the only union being made through the eyes and the movements of the dance. Yes but now, in this painting of a lazy world whose only concerns are sentimental, the filmmaker manages to still allow a few freedom. To discover ...
11 Cole Porter (Peru (IN) 1891 – Santa Monica (CA) 1964) –
Born into a well-to-do family of Indiana, he learns the violin then the piano and composes his first operetta at the age of ten. He enters then Harvard to study law but quickly turns to his real calling, the music. The performance on Broadway of his first public work having failed, he moves in 1916 to the war in France. He enlists in the Foreign Legion, what will earn him being decorated with the French War Cross.
After his discharge, he settles down in
Paris where he marries Linda Lee
Thomas, a rich divorcee from Kentucky who was described as the most beautiful woman of the world. He will eventually confess however his homosexual preferences.
He composes in 1923 the first jazz ballet in the history of music for the Swedish Ballet tour to Paris. Cole Porter would become, after returning to New York, one of the most emblematic representatives of the Tin Pan Alley, the name given to the style of American popular song of the time in reference to the Manhattan street which housed most music publishers since the end of the last century.
12 The essential hits of 1934 (1)
01 – Jimmie Lunceford (Fulton (MS) 1902 – Seaside (OR) 1947 ) – Remember when 3:18 (Will Hudson, Eddie Delange)
02 – Benny Goodman (Chicago (IL) 1909 - New York (NY) 1986) & Fred Astaire– Night and day 3:26 (Cole Porter)
03 – Fats Waller (New York (NY) 1904 – Kansas City (MO) 1943) – Breakin’ the ice 3:19 (Frank Weldon, Charles McCarthy)
04 – Ginger Rogers (Virginia McMath – Independence (MO) 1911 – Rancho Mirage (LA) 1995) – The Continental 3:01 (Con Conrad, Heb Magidson)
05 – Charlie Barnet (New York (NY) 1913 – San Diego (CA) 1991) & Helen Heath – Infatuation 2:52 (Walter Samuels, Leonard Whitcup)
06 – Fred Astaire (Omaha (NE) 1899 – CA 1981) – We’re in the money 2:19 (Harry Warren, Al Dubin)
Cover of one of the main songs of Gold Diggers of 1933 originally performed by
07– The Boswell Sisters (Formed in New Orleans (LA) 1925) – The object of my affection 3:09 (Coy Poe, Jimmie Grier, Pinky Tomlin)
08 – Dick Powell & Ruby Keeler – I only have eyes for you 4:10 (Harry Warren – Al Dubin)
09 – The Mills Brothers (Formed in Cincinnati (OH) 1924) – Jungle fever 3:13
(Howard Dietz, Walter Donaldson)
10 – Claude Hopkins (Alexandria (VA) 1903 – New York (NY) 1986) – Margie 3:12 (J. Russel Robinson)
11 – Cab Calloway (Rochester (NY) 1907 - Hockessin (DE) 1994) – Hotcha-Razz-Ma-Tazz 3:12 (Irving Mills, Wills Hudson, Andy Razaf, Willie Woods)
12 – Ethel Waters (Ethel Howard – Chester (PA) 1896 – Chattsworth (CA) 1977) – Heatwave 3:02 (Irving Berlin)
Although she introduced this song in the show A Thousand Cheers, Ethel Waters was in a way upstaged by Mildred Bailey who recorded her own version a few months earlier.
13 Jimmie Lunceford (Fulton (MS) 1902 - Seaside (OR) 1947)
He leaves from childhood his native Mississippi for Denver (CO) where he will attend in particular the music school managed by Wilberforce J. Whiteman, the father of the famous bandleader Paul Whiteman. No sooner had he completed his university studies that he is hired in 1922 as saxophonist in George Morrison's band.
Appointed a little later as a teacher in Memphis, he founds there a band of students with which he begins to record in 1927.
Gifted instrumentalist, he knows how to surround himself with the best musicians with whom he shows himself however very requiring. It is certainly due to the discipline that he imposes on the orchestra that he will develop the famous "Lunceford bounce ", a pacey tempo particularly suited to the dance of which we can say that it represents the archetype of the era of big bands and swing. Considered at the time as the equal of Duke Ellington and Earl Hines, he succeeds in 1934 Cab Calloway in the Cotton Club of Harlem. He records among others two tracks arranged by Will Hudson: Jazznocracy and White Heat which do not delay making him one of the most popular artists of his generation.
Charlie Barnet (New York (NY) 1913 – San Diego (CA) 1991)
His parents having divorced when he was two years old, it returned to his grandparents to take in charge his education. As a banker and vice-president of the New York Central Railroad, his grandfather was a respected businessman and a worthy representative of the American upper-class. The young Charlie was sent as it should be in the best schools of New York and Chicago but he eventually abandoned his law studies to devote to the music.
He have learnt during his childhood to play the saxophone and the piano and prefers to escape from the school to listen to some music or play occasionally in a band.
He records his first songs in 1933 and forms his own band at the same time. His career really starts the following year when he occurs along with Red Norvo.
14 Fats Waller (New York (NY) 1904 – Kansas City (MO) 1943)
Trained from his childhood to the piano, the little Thomas is only 10, when he plays the organ of the church where his father is a minister. As precocious as talented, he becomes four years later the organist of the Lincoln Theater in Harlem for which he composes his first rag. He records at the age of 18 his first soloes in the piano and composes or co-writes numerous songs some of which will become standards, as Honeysuckle Rose. Pianist in the generous temperament, he gets noticed at first beside Bessie Smith. His increasing popularity plays him however an odd trick.
In 1926, he is kidnapped in Chicago in full representation by the men of Al Capone. Terrified, he is led by strength in a bar where they eventually explain him that he is urged by the boss of the Mob to liven up his birthday party. He will play until the exhaustion for three days but will finally be rewarded of few thousand dollars. He releases in 1934 the series of recordings which form the most representative example of Stride, the fashionable piano style, combining with virtuosity the rag and the swing.
His vividness and his visible casualness will never allow him on the other hand to be recognized by his just value. In spite of his generosity and an exceptional repertoire, his contemporaries will perceive him in fact more as a public entertainer.
Fashions of 1934 (Warner Bros)
One of the last pre-code feature films
I’m always been told that when good Americans die, they don’t go to heaven, they go to Paris.
This is the way Sherwood Nash (William Powell) presents his project by paraphrasing
Oscar Wilde, while adding that the advised Americans will not wait for this term,
not to take risks.
The movie leads the spectator in the heart of a swindle taking place in the universe of the “haute couture” design. Sherwood Nash, a kind businessman but without scruples had the idea to ask the stylist Lynn Mason (Bette Davis) to copy the collections of the Parisian creators to resell them at a low price in New York. The scam is quickly and efficiently conducted and the protagonists, settled for the occasion in Paris, insinuate themselves very easy into this smart set where get confused lies and small calculations. Nobody is exempt, whether it is the Parisian fashion designer Oscar Baroque (Reginald Owen) who draws in fact his inspiration from old fashion magazines nor his partner Duchess Alix (Verree Teasdale) who is been thought of as an aristocrat although well born in the New York suburb. The police will have to get involved and Nash to definitely renounce his suspicious transactions so that morality gets the upper hand.
Generally well noted by critics, the movie mainly crossed once more the time thanks to the talent of Busby Berkeley. Released in February, a few months only before the Hays Code imposes its Puritanical rules, Fashions of 1934 is one of the last examples of the liberality which reigned in the Hollywood studios. The musical show that featured Duchess expresses some darings which the American film will soon have to give up. Chorus girls are there effectively held in honor in outfits both too slight and too attractive to suit in the clothing rigidity defined by the Code. Busby Berkeley nevertheless knew as any other previously to exalt the feminine body, its gracefulness and the quality of its curves. We remain confused by the close-ups peppering his choreography showing young women both smiling and spontaneous, such real ingenuous facing the enticed eye of the viewer. Broken Melody is certainly a wonder in the genre. Busby Berkeley carries on as usual the contrast between white and black in an unreal universe resulting from a dream. The dance routine approaches perfection with timings testifying once again of his genius for the graduated adjustment of rhythmical choreographies. Stripped outfits that were the heyday of Hollywood, however, will soon be stored in attics, victims of a merciless about-turn .
15 the film credits
Director : William Dieterle
Producer: Henry Blanke
Choreograhy : Busby Berkeley
Screenplay: Harry Collins and Warren Duff
Score : Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal
Actors : William Powell (Sherwood Nash), Bette Davis (Lynn Mason), Frank McHugh (Snap), Verree Teasdale (Duchess Alix), Hugh Herbert (Joe Ward), Reginald Owen (Oscar Baroque)...
Busby Berkeley supports his baroque and unconventional staging with suggestive outfits which scarcely admits Puritanical America.
Claude Hopkins (Alexandria (VA) 1903 – New York (NY) 1986)
He studied medicine at the Howard University of Washington but finally decided to make a career in music. He had begun to learn the piano from the age of 7 years and manifested effectively exceptional abilities for this instrument. He performs with the same virtuosity a wide musical repertoire associating the bounciest strides with romantic ballads, what is worth to him to be dubbed Crazy Fingers. Hopkins played at first in various bands before forming his own in 1924.
He left next year for Europe, became the music
director of Josephine Baker, occured in Spain and in Italy and returned finally a few months later to the United States. He takes in 1930 the direction of Charlie Skeete’s band and therefore participates
in a regular way with the Savoy Ballroom sessions.
16 The essential hits of 1934 (2)
01 – Jimmie Lunceford (Fulton (MS) 1902 – Seaside (OR) 1947 ) – Time ‘s A-Wastin’ 2:37
02 – Dick Powell (Mountain View (AR) 1903 – Hollywood (CA) 1963) – Dames 3:23
(Harry Warren, Al Dubin)
03 – Cab Calloway (Rochester (NY) 1907 - Hockessin (DE) 1994) – Jitter Bug 3:12 (Calloway)
Originated actually from the 20s, the Jitterbug is a fast, even acrobatic way, to dance swing.
The etymology of the word suggests several possibilities, from distant reference in the
sexual act up to some addictions. It is also similar to the "bounce", a rhythm literally
"jumping". Considered generally as the ancestor of the bebop, the Jitterbug becomes very
fashionable in clubs from 1934.
04 – The Boswell Sisters (Formed in New Orleans (LA) 1925) – You oughta be in pictures
3:00 (Edward Heyman, Dana Suesse)
05 – The Mills Brothers (Formed in Cincinnati (OH) 1924) – Swing it, sister 2:39
(Burton Lane, Harold Adamson)
06 – Benny Goodman (Chicago (IL) 1909 - New York (NY) 1986) feat. Mildred Bailey
(Mildred Rinker – Tekoa (WA) 1907 – Poughkeepsie (NY) 1951) – Ol’ Pappy 3:12
(Al J. Neiburg, Jerry Levinson, Marty Symes)
07 – Duke Ellington (Washington DC 1899 – New York (NY ) 1974) feat. Ivie
Anderson (Gilroy (CA) 1905 – Los Angeles (CA) 1949) – My old flame 3:22 (Arthur Johnston,
Mae West is especially going to make famous this song by performing it in the movie
" Beautiful of the Nineties " released at the same moment.
08 – Fats Waller (New York (NY) 1904 – Kansas City (MO)
1943) – Georgia May 2:38 (Andy Razaf, Paul Denniker)
09 – Bing Crosby (Tacoma (WA) 1903 – Madrid (Esp) 1977)
– June in January 3:18 (Leo Robin, Ralph Rainger)
10 – Freddy Martin (Cleveland (OH) 1909 -1983)
feat. Elmer Feldkamp – What a difference a
day makes 3:04 (Maria Mendez Grever,
The Dorsey Brothers also make it the
same year one of their hits. Resumed
many times this song was originally
written by the Mexican composer
Maria Mendez with for title
Cuando vuelva a tu la do.
11 – Ethel Merman (New York (NY) 1904 – Kansas City (MO) 1943) – You’re a builder upper 2:36 (“Yip” Harburg, Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin)
Song created on Broadway for the show "Life Begins At Eighty Four" and performed on
stage by Ray Bolger and Dixie Dunbar.
12 – Jack Teagarden (Vernon (TX) 1905 - New Orleans (LA) 1964) – Stars fell on Alabama 3:02 (Frank Perkins, Mitchell Parish)
This song was performed by many artists. It recalls the night in November, 1933 when the sky of Alabama was studded with shooting stars.
18 Louis Prima (The King of the Swing -
New Orleans (LA) 1911 - New Orleans (LA)
Born into a catholic family of Italian origin, he
learns still a child to play the violin before
preferring the trumpet. He starts his musical
career in his hometown where he develops a
style heavily influenced by Louis Armstrong.
He does not moreover hide his admiration for
his brilliant elder with whom he shares a rough
timbre of voice.
He settles down in New York from 1934 and
establishes his headquarters in 52nd street
together with friends from New Orleans as Eddie Miller (tenor sax) and George Brunies (trombone), joined soon by the clarinetist Pee Wee Russell.
17 Ethel Merman (Ethel Zimmerman – Astoria, Queens , New York 1908 – New York 1986)
Brought up in a strict Protestant family, she is intended for a business career but shows in fact more interest for activities occurring outside the school.
She starts frequenting the places in Queens where they play music and goes with her family every Friday evening to the Palace Theatre on Broadway where she can look up to Fanny Brice, Sophie
Tucker and Nora Bayes. She begins to work as a secretary but does not despair to perform one day on stage. Ethel gets first some small contracts before the chance comes to smile to her.
Paramount first hires her to replace Ruth Etting in
Follow the Leader, a movie starring Ed Wynn and Ginger Rogers before she gets a leading role in Girl Crazy, the musical created by the Gershwin brothers which starts in October, 1930 at the Alvin Theatre in Manhattan. The critics take immediately delight in her ease and her powerful voice. Her career is definitively launched and she will from then on share her time between Broadway of which she will become one of the stars and Hollywood where she will make some honorable appearances.
19 The essential hits of 1934 (3)
01 – Jimmie Lunceford (Fulton (MS) 1902 – Seaside (OR) 1947 ) – Rhythm is our business 3:14 (Jimmie Luceford, Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin)
02 – Ethel Waters (Ethel Howard – Chester (PA) 1896 – Chattsworth (CA) 1977) – Miss Otis Regrets 3:06 (Cole Porter)
The song was written for the show Hi Diddle Diddle whose the first night took place in London in October, 1934. Ethel Waters was not the first performer but her version which is considered as the most successful depicts perfectly the particular atmosphere in which takes place the action. Miss Otis regrets, she’s unable to lunch today, a civilized way worthy of the middle-class conventions to announce that she has just put an end to her life having been abandoned by her lover.
03 – Claude Hopkins – (Alexandria (VA) 1903 – New York (NY) 1986) - I can’t dance, I got ants in my pants 2:49 (Charlie Gaines, Clarence Williams)
04 – Louis Prima (New Orleans (LA) 1911 – New Orleans (LA) 1978 ) – Sing it’ Way low down 2:45 (Hoagy Carmichael, Jo Trent)
05 – Shirley Temple (Santa Monica (CA) 1928-) – On the good ship lollypop 3:50 (Richard Whiting, Sidney Clare)
This song from the soundtrack of the movie Bright Eyes will remain definitively associated with the image Shirley Temple as that of eternal girl miracle, playful and shattering.
By the way, the ship which carries her to the country of lollipops is not a boat but a plane.
06 – Don Bestor (Langford (SD) 1889 - 1970) feat. Neil Buckley – Little dutch mill 3:11 (Harry Barris, Ralph Freed)
07 – Ted Fio Rito (Newark (NJ) 1900 - Scottsdale (AZ) 1971) – I’ll string along with you 3:16 (Al Dubin, Harry Warren)
08 – Jimmy Durante (New York (NY) 1893 – Santa Monica (CA) 1980) – Inka, Dinka, Doo 3:31 (Jimmy Durante, Ben Ryan)
A hit that will remain his reference song
09 – Fats Waller (New York (NY) 1904 – Kansas City (MO) 1943) - Dream Man 3:00 (Joe Young, Milton Ager)
10 – The Boswell Sisters (Formed in New Orleans (LA) 1925) – Rock and roll 2:48 (Richard A. Whiting)
11 – Midge Williams (Tulare County (CA) 1915 – San Francisco (CA) 1952) - Lazy bones 3:26 (Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer)
12 – Benny Goodman (Chicago (IL) 1909 - New York (NY) 1986) feat. Helen Ward (New York (NY) 1913 – Arlington (VA) 1998) – I’m a hundred percent for you 3:03 (Ben Oakland, Irving Mills, Mitchell Parish)
Ray Noble (Brighton (Sussex) 1903 – London 1978)
This former student of the Royal Academy of Music formed his own band in 1929. Pianist, composer but also a talented arranger, he hires in the early 30s the singer Al Bowlly with whom he has a series of hits. His records make of him a real star in the United States where he will eventually settle from 1935.
20 Shirley Temple (Santa Monica (CA) 1928)
It is her mother who aware of premature abilities of the little Shirley enrolls her from the age of 3 years at the Meglin School Dance in Los Angeles. She is very fast noticed by the agents of the Educational Pictures who choose her to play in a series of short movies entitled Baby Burlesks. She also participates in diverse advertisements and appears in 1932 in Red-Haired Alibi. The Fox which has just founded Darryl Zanuck offers her in February, 1934 her first real role in Stand up and Cheer!
The success is there and the release in December of Bright Eyes comes to confirm her tremendous talent.
President Franlin Roosevelt will even declare to her subject that " It is a splendid thing that for just fifteen cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles."
21 The essential hits of 1934 (4)
01 – Freddy Martin (Cleveland (OH) 1909 -1983) & Helen Ward (New York (NY) 1913 – Arlington (VA) 1998) – The Boulevard of Broken Dreams 2:41 (Al Dubin, Harry Warren)
This song composed for the movie “Moulin Rouge” was performed on screen by Constance Bennett.
02 – Paul Whiteman (Denver (CO) 1890 - Doylestone (PA) 1967) & The Modernaries – Mandy 2:29 (Irving Berlin)
Written in 1919 by Irving Berlin, this song had been originally performed by Eddie Cantor in the show Kid Millions produced by Samuel Godwyn.
03 – Bing Crosby (Tacoma (WA) 1903 – Madrid (Esp) 1977) – Ridin’ around the rain 2:56 (Carmen Lombardo, Gene Austin)
The composer Carmen Lombardo was none other than the younger brother of Guy Lombardo. Ridin' around the rain is one of his best known songs but he wrote also several musics for Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby.
04 – Fats Waller (New York (NY) 1904 – Kansas City (MO) 1943) – Honeysuckle rose 2:41 (Andy Razaf, Fats Waller)
Although it has been composed in 1928, this song had to there never been recorded..
05 – Rudy Vallee (Island Pond (VT) 1901 - North Hollywood (CA) 1986) & His Connecticut Yankees – Lost in a fog 3:07 (Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh, from the movie “Have a Heart”)
06 – The Mills Brothers (Formed in Cincinnati (OH) 1924) – What’s the reason (I’m not pleasin’ you) 2:42 (Coy Poe, Earl Hatch, Jimmy Grier, Pinky Tomlin)
07 – Gene Raymond (New York City 1908 – Los Angeles (CA) 1998) – All I do is dream of you 2:17 (Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown)
Gene Raymond (alias Tommy Wallace) performs this song in Sadie McKee, a dramatic movie directed by Clarence Brown starring Joan Crawford.
08 – Louis Prima (New Orleans (LA) 1911 – New Orleans (LA) 1978) – Let’s have a jubilee 3:12 (Alex Hill, Irving Mills)
09 – Al Bowlly (Lourenço Marques (Mozambique) – London 1941) with Lew Stone (London (UK) 1898 – 1969) & His Band – Riptide 3:09 (Gus Kahn, Walter Donaldson)
This song had been composed for the opening credits of Riptide, the MGM's romance movie starring Norma Shearer. Guy Lombardo & His Canadians were the first record it.
10 – Jack Teagarden (Vernon (TX) 1905 - New Orleans (LA) 1964) & Nappy Lamare – Fare thee well to Harlem 3:06 (Bernie Hanighen, Johnny Mercer)
11 – Ray Noble (Brighton (Sussex) 1903 – London 1978) & His All Star American Orchestra with The Three Ginx – Repeal the blues 2:16 (James Dyrenforth, Johnny Green)
12 – Jimmie Lunceford (Fulton (MS) 1902 – Seaside (OR) 1947 ) – Stardust 3:05 (Hoagy Carmichael)
23 The essential Blues of 1934
01 – Big Bill Broonzy (Lake Dick (AR) 1898 – Chicago (IL) 1958 ) – Friendless
Blues 3:28 (Bill Broonzy)
02 – Blind Willie McTell (Thomson (GA) – Almon (GA) 1959) – Savannah
Mama 2:52 (Willie McTell)
03 – Buddy Moss (Jewell (GA) 1914 - Atlanta (GA) 1984) – Dough Rolling Papa
04 – Charley Patton (Bolton (MS) 1891 - Indianola(MS 1934) ) – Revenue
man blues 3:10 (Patton)
05 – Kokomo Arnold (James Arnold - Lovejoys Station (GA) 1901 – Chicago (IL)
1968 ) – Milk cow blues 3:10 (Edward Heyman, Dana Suesse)
06 – Josh White (Greensboro (NC) 1914 – Manhasset (NY 1969) – Bed Spring blues 2:56 (Lemon Jefferson, White)
07 – Leroy Carr (Nashville (TN) 1905 – Indianopolis (IN) 1935) – Take a walk around the corner 3:09 (Carr)
08 – Tampa Red (Hudson Woodbridge Whittaker – Smithville (GA) 1904 – Chicago (IL ) 1986) – Mean mistreater blues 2:49 (Red Whittaker)
09 – Bumble Bee Slim (Amos Easton – Brunswick (GA) 1905 – Los Angeles (CA) 1969) – Cruel Hearted woman (part I) 2:35 (Bee Slim)
10 – Charlie (Jackson (MS) 1909 - Chicago (IL) 1950) & Joe McCoy (Jackson (MS) 1905 -
Chicago (IL) 1950) – Baltimore blues 2:51 (McCoy)
11 – "Scrapper" Blackwell (Francis Black – Syracuse (NC) 1903 – Indianapolis (IN) 1962) – Blues before sunrise 5:10 (Carr)
12 – Buddy Moss – Oh Lordy Mama 2:45 (Moss)
13 – Kokomo Arnold – Sissi man blues 3:09 (Arnold)
14 – Memphis Minnie (Lizzie Douglas – Algiers (LA) 1897 – Memphis (TN) 1973) – Moaning the blues 3:06 (Minnie)
22 The Blues roads lead to Chicago
Blues begins to emerge from the Great Depression. The area was truly damaged due to poor records sales and the closing down of several recording studios of but it gets back strength after having almost hit rock bottom in 1933. Bumble Bee Slim and Peetie Wheatstraw have just spent two years roaming in Chicago before being able to find the way back to record companies. They record in 1934 for Decca quite as Kokomo Arnold, a specialist of bottleneck* of whom famous Milk Cow Blues will remain in posterity. Memphis Minnie also arrived to Chicago together with her husband, Joe McCoy and her brother-in-law Charlie.
At that time, many musicians who try their luck in this city. It must be recognized that it displays from the beginning of the century a surprising economic health. The leaders of the mob made moreover no mistake by settling here their headquarters. The industrialization experienced by the area before the crisis had the effect of siphoning the states of the South of an important part of its workforce. A strong African American community settled down in the suburbs of Chicago where she enjoys living conditions far better than she would never have had access in the South. Bars, speakeasies and night clubs proliferate in the Windy City where are met all sorts of musicians and singers come there to offer their services.
Charley Patton's death occurred on April 28th sees fading what still remained of the seminal legend of the the Delta blues, rough, tormented, introspective. Most of the children of the Mississippi shores have already chosen other skies, less ungrateful, less miserable.
1934 is besides marked by the beginning of a new urban style, which reaches a certain aesthetic sophistication. Big Bill Broonzy who is already thought of as a veteran records in New York new tracks in a refined style, accompanied with a piano. But there two other individuals who best embody this evolution , guitarist Scrapper Blackwell and pianist Leroy Carr. Both self-taughts, they met in one of these backdoor places in Indianopolis where people drank smuggled alcohol.
They got used to occur and record together. Leroy Carr is the first one to create a "crooning " effect inspired by the vocal work of Bing Crosby. He actually jostles all that made the substance of classic blues, most of the time supported by powerful voices intended to be heard far off, without microphone.
A special mention finally to Buddy Moss who, at only 20, realizes the best records sales of the year, surpassing even " Blind " Willie McTell or Tampa Red, two of the most reliable values of blues. His two front tracks Dough Rolling Papa and Oh Lordy Mama will even be the object of numerous covers.
Let us remind by the way that these last three artists from Georgia show the popularity then enjoyed by the sound of the Piedmont Blues.
*The bottleneck, is the sound effect produced by the sliding of a cylindrical object or a blade along the strings of the guitar
24 "Scrapper" Blackwell (Syracuse (NC) 1903 – Indianapolis (IN) 1962)
This is due to a feisty temperament that his grandmother nicknamed him so. His family left North Carolina to Indianapolis where clearly gifted for music, the little Francis Hillman Blackwell teaches himself to play the guitar and the piano. Occasional musician, he earns mainly his living by making bootlegging, a risky but very common job during the
He attends some time the musical community of Chicago but it is his
meeting with Leroy Carr which will prove determining for the rest of
its career. He records with him his first song, long How Long, how Long
Blues for Vocalion in 1928. Thanks to the obtained success, both musicians
leave for a long tour which leads them in Midwest and the South.
Back to Indianapolis, Blackwell will temporarily end his career after
the untimely death of Leroy Carr in 1935.
25 Leroy Carr (Nashville (TN) 1905 – Indianopolis (IN) 1935)
After his parents broke it off, the little Leroy left Nashville with his mother for Louisville, then Indianopolis where the booming car industry was in search of labor. Despite good skills, he gave up middle school for the piano which he taught practically by himself. He got married at 17 and lived from then on insecure jobs, playing occasionally in nightclubs in Indianapolis. He managed to attend the local Mob which provided him the opportunity to make money as a bootlegger but he was arrested in 1925 and spent a few months in jail. He got on the other hand used to drink regularly bad liquor.
It is in this context that he met the guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. Both musicians begin playing together in the bars of Indiana Avenue before recording their first track for Vocalion in 1928. How Long, How Long Blues achieves a rapid success, not for its musical qualities but because of Leroy Carr's way of singing. He seems, as it is said, to have been born for the microphone. His style quickly raises the enthusiasm of a widened audience, until there deaf to the intricacies of blues. He reaches however the peak of his popularity at a moment when he has already sunk into alcoholism.
( James Arnold - Lovejoys Station (GA) 1901 - Chicago (IL) 1968)
Having learned to play guitar with one of his cousins, he occurs occasionally on his workplace where he is appreciated for his mastery of the “slide”, the way of modulating the sound by dragging a cylindrical object along the strings. In 1929, he gives up his job in the steelworks of Pittsburgh to try the adventure in Chicago. He practices some time bootlegging before leaving for Memphis where he will have the opportunity to make his first recordings. He gets there acquainted with Kansas Joe McCoy and it is thanks to him that he returns in 1934 in Chicago to meet the producer Mayo Williams. Interested by the originality of his style, this one commits him for a session of recordings in the studio Decca. His Milk Cow Blues will not, moreover, delay to become a standard. It is also at this time that he was assigned the nickname Kokomo by reference to the song Old Kokomo Blues.
Located in Indiana, Kokomo City enjoyed at the time a paradoxical reputation. A real stronghold of Klu Klux Klan, it was also known for its nightlife and hospitality towards people passing through.
42nd-street.fr - Gerard Tondu
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