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  • mistermuse 1:32 pm on May 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cyd Charisse, , , , If I Didn't Care, , Jukebox Saturday Night, Les Brown, , Modernaires, Nat King Cole Dorothy Dandridge, Ricardo Montalban, , , Stan Kenton   


    For those who watched the Jukebox Saturday Night clip in my first SOUNDIES post and may not be familiar with The Ink Spots (the great 1930s-40s vocal quartet which was so humorously spoofed by the Modernaires in that clip), here is a clip of “the real thing”:


    When the previously mentioned James Roosevelt became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941, Tin Pan Alley great Sam Coslow (composer of many 1930s-40s hit songs) took charge of Soundies operations. As Coslow tells it in his autobiography COCKTAILS FOR TWO:

    “Panoram was a glorified juke box that ran films instead of records. Roosevelt decided to find someone who could produce a regular program of short musical films [and] decided that my background was right for the post. I had twelve years experience with musicals, writing songs and special material, recording and scoring, and, more recently, producing a feature film.”
    “Jimmy’s office was down the hall from mine in the Goldwyn studios, and we had a number of talks. He finally arranged for me to fly to Chicago to meet with [the] president of the Mills outfit. We agreed to set up a new production company called Roosevelt, Coslow and Mills, Inc., later shortened to R.C.M., Inc.”
    “I was named as production head….to turn out three shorts a week in Hollywood, plus another three a week at a studio in New York. One of the first things we did was a series with Louis Armstrong. At first I played it safe by using established musical names who happened to be around Hollywood or New York. Besides Armstrong, I hired Duke Ellington & his Orchestra, Spike Jones, and bands like Les Brown’s and Stan Kenton’s.”
    “What was more notable about the talent used in the Soundies, however, was an array of great performers who were destined to become top names in the entertainment world.  Like Doris Day, for instance….Nat King Cole….Cyd Charisse….Dorothy Dandridge….Gale Storm….Ricardo Montalban….Liberace.”
    “The concept of seeing as well as hearing popular performers had great novelty value for audiences of the day. Television was still in its experimental stage, and Soundies had the same kind of exotic appeal. The machine even makes a gag appearance in a Hollywood feature film, Hi Diddle Diddle (1943).”
    “But the machine was no joke to movie theater owners. People were spending their dimes in the Panoram, not at the box office. Theater operators banded together to combat the movie-machine menace. Several states proposed severe licensing and taxation measures to discourage the proliferation of film jukeboxes. Fortunately for Panoram owners, the proposed legislation was tabled upon the outbreak of World War II.”

    I could of course go on “Soundie-ing off,” but I need to wrap this up sooner or later, and found a clip that does so nicely:



    • Don Frankel 6:41 pm on May 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      When I started to read part one, I’m thinking James Roosevelt Marine Raider? Yup that was him.

      Now I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of Soundies. I know I’ve seen a lot of them but I never knew much about them. You’ve uncovered another gem. Great article.


    • mistermuse 7:35 pm on May 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Don.
      My large collection of old books often proves invaluable when writing on a subject such as Soundies, providing more material than I could ever find online. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love it when that happens, because I can pass along interesting, little known story-behind-the-story stuff to readers who might appreciate it, such as yourself.


  • mistermuse 12:01 am on May 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Glenn Miller Modernaires, Jukebox Saturday Night, jukeboxes, musical shorts,   


    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?


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