Next Week: Soundies in LA

"Soundies: The Ultimate Collection" at the UCLA Film Archive October 2023

“Soundies: The Ultimate Collection” is coming to Los Angeles.

On Friday, October 6, the UCLA Film Archive is presenting four sizzling programs from the video set.

Kicking things off: “Starting from Swing,” an 8-film lineup featuring powerhouses like Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Count Basie and His Orchestra, and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, one of the hottest all-woman big bands of the 1940s.

The second program, “Powered by Dance,” opens with the classic Ellington Soundie “Hot Chocolate (‘Cottontail’),” showcasing the era’s preeminent jitterbug troupe, Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. There’s virtuoso tap dance and rhumba too.

Rounding out the program, “Jumping into Gender Play” and “Heading Toward Rock ‘n’ Roll” feature iconic performers like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Louis Jordan, and Les Paul, along with rediscoveries like Maurice Rocco, June Richmond, and the incomparable Day, Dawn, and Dusk.

There’ll be a post-screening Q&A with project contributor Mark Cantor, author of The Soundies: A History and Catalog of Jukebox Film Shorts of the 1940s.

It’s happening next Friday, October 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the Billy Rose Theater at UCLA.  Admission is free, no advance reservations. Box office opens one hour before the event. More information here.

“Jammin’ in the Panoram”: J. Hoberman on Soundies and “The Ultimate Collection”

Film critic, curator, and historian J. Hoberman has written a wonderful essay about Soundies, which went online this weekend at the New York Review of Books.

Describing Soundies as “social hieroglyphs,” Hoberman enriches an account of their history with specific films in the Kino Lorber set, from Dance, Baby, Dance (“Tantze Babele”) to I Shut My Mouth for Uncle Sam.

With a historian’s eye, he adds wonderful tidbits to our collective Soundies knowledge—including the little-known fact that “Mi Chee” (née Machiko Takaoka), the miniature dancer in Hoagy Carmichael’s Hong Kong Blues, was also known as Myrtle Goldfinger.

“Delson’s curation is creative,” Hoberman writes about Soundies: The Ultimate Collection, adding that “her strongest points are made through juxtaposition. The introductory section basically alternates Black bands and performers with white ones, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions about the origins and virtuosi of American entertainment.”

In closing, he writes: “To use a term that migrated from Black slang to general usage during the 1940s, Soundies: The Ultimate Collection is a deep dig. . . . Not just nostalgia buffs or cultural historians but Tik Tokers will find much to mine here.”

Read the full essay here.

A Thumbs-Up on Soundies from the Wall Street Journal

Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal review of "Soundies: The Ultimate Collection"

“An essential set in terms of both quality and quantity, with no shortage of amazing performances.”

That’s how music and cultural writer Will Friedwald describes Soundies: The Ultimate Collection in today’s Wall Street Journal.

“The most radical aspects of the package,” Friedwald adds, “are its emphasis on Black performers and its thematic organization largely along social, racial, political and gender lines.”

In addition to appearances by future celebs like Nat King Cole, Doris Day, and “a pianist at a point so early in his career that he is billed as Walter Liberace,” Friedwald notes that “every kind of music is accompanied by dancing; the set is easily worth the asking price for that footage alone.”

In the 1980s, Friedwald says, it was common to describe Soundies as the forerunner of MTV music videos. But, he concludes, “we now know that they were much more than that—an invaluable musical and visual record of who we are as a people and a culture.”

Read the full review here.

A Rave Review . . . And Another Interview

Word is starting to get out about Soundies: The Ultimate Collection.

In a New York Sun review that went online July 27, critic Mario Naves writes:

“Few items that have come through the transom in recent months have elicited as much joy, as much wonder and surprise, as ‘Soundies: The Ultimate Collection,’ a four-disc Blu-Ray set released by Kino Lorber. For devotees of American popular music, the package is nothing short of a necessity.”

He wraps up by saying: “What are you waiting for? ‘Soundies’ is a valuable contribution to our understanding of 20th century America and an indicator of how pop culture may well be the most effective agent for fostering true diversity.”

Read the full review here.

And for your listening pleasure, here’s a 12-minute Soundies conversation with Max Foizey, host of “Max on Movies” on KTRS radio in St. Louis and contributor to the movie website ZekeFilm.

Hear the conversation here.

A Soundies Clip-a-thon!

To celebrate today’s release of Soundies: The Ultimate Collection, the folks at Kino Lorber have prepared a slew of film clips highlighting some of the top performances.

Here are three of my favorites.

The Charioteers in Swing for Sale (1941)

The Kim Loo Sisters in Gee! The Jeep Jumps (1944)

And Louis Jordan and His Band in Ration Blues (1944)

For more about Soundies: The Ultimate Collection, see the page on this website.

For ordering, there’s a deep discount on Amazon… and a discount on the Kino Lorber page, too.

Releasing Today! “Soundies: The Ultimate Collection”


Cover image for "Soundies the Ultimate Collection," coming soon from Kino Lorber

It’s here! All 25 programs and 200 films’ worth. Roughly 10 hours of viewing, pulled from the full breadth of the Soundies catalog.

Each DVD in the 4-disc set explores a different theme, from “Introducing Soundies” and “Musical Evolutions” to “Life in the Soundies Era” and “Women, Sexuality, and Gender.”

Many of the Soundies you’ve enjoyed on this site are included in the package–some of them in spiffy 35mm versions–along with some amazing discoveries and rediscoveries.

Beyond the iconic performances by Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Ricardo Montalban, and other stars, there are Soundies with entertainers you may never have heard of: terrific all-women big bands like the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, early rock n rollers like Maurice Rocco and Harry “The Hipster” Gibson, comic singer-songwriter Cindy Walker, and a washtub solo by Florence Gill, probably the only performer to make a living by clucking like a chicken. 

Ready to  order? There’s a deep discount on Amazon … and a discount on the Kino Lorber website, too.


Soundies Come to NitrateVille

Interview Closes 100th Episode of Popular Podcast


Soundies interview with Susan Delson on Nitrateville Radio podcast

Just released! My interview with host Mike Gebert on his NitrateVille Radio podcast.

On his website, slide the timecode to 64:19 for the start of the interview, which runs roughly 40 minutes.

It was great to talk Soundies with Mike, who’s  a smart, lively interviewer and a terrific editor. The conversation is dotted with audio excerpts from a variety of Soundies, all of them spot on for the topic at hand.

Our interview closes out NitrateVille’s 100th episode. Congratulations to Mike, and thanks for making Soundies part of that milestone. 

Soundies Now Streaming on Max


Soundies programs streaming on Max

Last summer I did some program consulting for Turner Classic Movies, capped by two nights of Soundies and related feature films in September.

Now, several of those September Soundies–and others that I suggested–are available for streaming on Max (formerly HBO Max).

The 5 programs include an all-star lineup in Season 1, followed by sets on big bands, dance, country-western, and wartime life.

With a little over two weeks to go before the July 25 release of Soundies: The Ultimate Collection, these programs are a terrific preview for Max subscribers.

Coming Soon! 200 of My Favorite Soundies


Cover image for "Soundies the Ultimate Collection," coming soon from Kino Lorber

Exciting news! The Soundies package I’ve been curating for the past two years is headed for release this summer.

On July 25, Kino Lorber will roll out “Soundies the Ultimate Collection,” a 25-program extravaganza showcasing some 200 films. That’s roughly 10 hours’ worth of viewing, pulled from the full breadth of the Soundies catalog.

Each DVD in the 4-disc set explores a different theme, from “Introducing Soundies” and “Musical Evolutions” to “Life in the Soundies Era” and “Women, Sexuality, and Gender.”

Many of the Soundies you’ve enjoyed on this site are included in the package–some of them in spiffy 35mm versions–along with a slew of new discoveries.  As the back-cover blurb puts it:

“Never have so many Soundies been celebrated in one collection, or presented with such care: thematically organized, accompanied by on-screen introductions and a booklet of essays, photos, and credits.”

Ready to put in your advance order (at a 20% discount)? For details, see Soundies the Ultimate Collection on the Kino Lorber website.

More to come as we head toward summer.

A Soundies Conversation at the Academy Museum in L.A.


I’m honored to be part of the Regeneration Summit, a celebration of Black cinema coming to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles this weekend.

I’ll be speaking on the panel “Soundies 101: A Hidden History,” talking about the films, performers, and cultural history that I wrote about in the book.

I’ll be in conversation with artist and media conservation specialist Ina Archer, who did several of the intros for the upcoming Kino Lorber Soundies collection (see the post just below this one); archivist and jazz-on-film scholar Mark Cantor, who was so vital to the book; film researcher Manouchka Labouba; and our moderator Doris Berger, co-curator of the museum’s milestone exhibition “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971.”

The panel is at 1 p.m. on Saturday, February 4, followed by a meet-and-greet in the museum bookstore at 2.

If you’re in the LA area, I’d love to see you there.