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.