In reply to a comment to my last post (A WASTE OF BREADTH), I suggested a theme song for the commenter’s blog, “The Immortal Jukebox.” The song I recommended was “Jukebox Saturday Night” as performed in this film clip:
If you were paying attention (and even if you weren’t), the film opened with “Soundies Presents….” And therein, as they say, lies a story — a story that, unless you were around in the 1940s, you’ve probably never heard.
“Soundies” (yes, “Selfies” generation, they had cutesy-sounding names for things back then too), were essentially three-minute jukebox movies — a marriage of jukebox and movie projector on a machine called Panoram. The concept was developed in 1938 by a Los Angeles dentist (that’s right, a dentist), who didn’t have the resources or business connections to refine and promote it. Enter Fred Mills and James Roosevelt.
The Mills Novelty Company was the then-leading manufacturer of jukeboxes. Roosevelt, son of FDR, was a prominent businessman (Globe Productions). In Feb. 1940 they joined forces as Globe-Mills Productions to market Panoram, which they introduced in Sept. 1940 with several demonstration films produced by Globe; the Mills unit became The Soundies Distributing Corporation of America, which was also the title of a 1991 book subtitled A HISTORY AND FILMOGRAPHY OF THEIR “JUKEBOX” MUSICAL FILMS OF THE 1940s. Well over 2,000 Soundies produced from August 1940 to Dec 1946 are listed in this book, from which I quote:
“The term “Soundies” is often used as a catch-all label for musical shorts in general, the same way such merchandising trademarks as “Band-Aid” are used generically. Music lovers don’t seem to care about the “authenticity” of Soundies, however, so many a collector’s prized collection of Soundie films includes a fair number of imitations (feature-film abridgements, etc.) promoted as “Soundies.”
“Imitations” or not, it’s all good. Well, at least the ones I like are all good. Does that sound right?
TO BE CONTINUED