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Louis Jordan was a singer, saxophonist, and band leader who specialized
in upbeat jazz -- comic, novelty, and good-times songs. The plot of
this movie is just as unsubstantial as those of most of Jordan's
movies, since the plot is only an excuse for Jordan and his Tympany
Five to perform their recent hits. Jordan does eleven songs in this
movie, and three of his female costars -- June Richmond, Bea Griffith,
and Mabel Lee -- do one song each.
The plot, for those who care, is that Jordan's father had a brief romance with Bea Griffith's mother, and his dying wish is for Jordan to marry Griffith. The family's crooked lawyer tries to substitute an altered will to cheat Jordan out of his inheritance, and also tries to sabotage the new show that Jordan is opening.
What makes Reet, Petite, and Gone different from other Jordan movies is that in addition to music it has many uncredited showgirls, the predecessors of today's video vixens, in daring scenes. Four or five pretty girls in short skirts will stand behind Jordan swaying a bit and doing a little dancing. A line of showgirls in swimsuits will step up to have their measurements taken. There's even a scene in which Bea Griffin sits in a black bra and panties and puts on her stockings -- hot-cha-cha. The highlight of the movie, however, is the strikingly pretty uncredited girl who sits on Jordan's piano and pantomimes her amusing reactions to his accusations of infidelity in "I Know What You've Been Putting Down."
Even if you are a die-hard Louis Jordan fan, as I am, and can't get enough of his jumpin' jive, this very low-budget movie will leave you yawning. The very basic (and not too funny) script is basically an excuse to cram as many Jordan numbers as possible, which is fine by me. But there is no direction to speak of, no rhythm in the editing, basically, nothing going on visually. The last song, which is supposed to be a Broadway musical number, doesn't even have any dancing at all ! As it is, "Reet, Petite and Gone" is at least interesting on one point : it seemed to be aimed exclusively at black audiences, and as such, they were not deemed worthy enough to deserve a well made and reasonably budgeted movie - I suppose the producers thought it was good enough to have a "race records" star featured in the movie and just doing his stuff. At least, that's my interpretation...
Continuing to review African-Americans in film in chronological order for Black History Month, we're once again in 1947 when Louis Jordan has another movie that's filled with his songs with a wisp of a plot for about an hour. In this one, he's Louis Jarvis who has to deal with both getting money for his Broadway show and contesting a will left by his dying father (himself in flashbacks, J. Louis Johnson as an old man). Besides Jordan, many other entertaining numbers are provided by Bea Griffith, Pat Rainey, and especially heavyset June Richmond who, like me, is a native of Chicago. And there are plenty of pretty female dancers, especially one on the piano in one number, who will make your blood boil! So with all that said, I highly recommend Reet, Petite, and Gone. P.S. Another player, a Rudy Toombs, comes from Monroe in my home state of Louisiana.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie was a delightful surprise.
Louis Jordan -- a musician I'd never heard of, though, admittedly, I am not a jazz aficionado -- is a joy to listen to and watch. I liked him best as the junior version of the elder musician joining in with his lady love's song. What a charming duet!
Yes, the plot line is beyond absurd. But this was 1947 and sexism wasn't even a word yet. It's an old-fashioned story with a happy ending that introduces viewers to (or reminds them of) a master musician with incredible stage presence.
I caught this movie on the TV channel of the City University of New York, where a post-screening commentator noted the "homoerotic" nature of the bra-and-stockings interlude involving the two girlfriends. It was an interesting scene but I'm not sure I'd go that far in describing it.
This lovely film is a little jewel. See it and savor it if you can!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Louis Jourdan has four weeks to find the right wife to inherit his father's estate, or the late man's shady attorney will be given the right to give the money to charity (or his pocket). The lawyer continues to plot against Jourdan who is putting on a Broadway show, hoping to find the type of girl his father insisted he marry. Along comes Bea Griffith, a sweet young thing whose mother was once involved with his father. Griffith's mother dumped the father for a wealthy man, but he lost his fortune, and Jourdan's father gained his. Will the two find each other in the nick of time? That's all there is as far as plot in this fun all-black musical which features a fine performance by a lovable heavyset singer named June Richmond who had appeared on Broadway prior to this. There's plenty of music, some amusing comedy, and it's all over in a short 67 minutes. While it's no "Stormy Weather" or "Cabin in the Sky", it provides plenty of amusement to be worth a look.
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