When a porter is hospitalized with a berth mark (putting his head in the wrong berth), the Benevolent Protective Society calls on the Black Knights of the Red Cap to do a show to raise money. A grand dress rehearsal in the high-ceilinged station starts at 4 a.m. An 11-piece band plays an up-tempo piece, followed by two tap dancing numbers: couples perform and give way to dancing red caps, then the men dance an even faster one with athleticism and acrobatics. A woman seated with her luggage sings the blues, followed by a male dancer who uses a jump rope, and a finale with a chorus line of maids in uniform and couples dancing. Board the Tropical Express and the Sunshine Limited. Written by
Full of the things that made the Harlem Renaissance great.
This is a short film from Vitaphone. Oddly, while most of Hollywood had no place for blacks in films except to be servants or comic relief, Warner Brothers featured quite a few black acts in their Vitaphone shorts--thus allowing us to preserve this part of our history.
"Smash Your Baggage" is has an all-black cast and although the film has a few derogatory stereotypes (such as the porters using up their funds shooting dice), it has a positive message that can be enjoyed by all. Because they have no funds in their relief fund, the porters decide to put on a benefit the next day. What follows has very little plot but LOTS of make the film fun--crazy good dancing. First, there are two of the most amazingly athletic tap dancers you'll ever see. You just have to see them to believe them--and some of what they do looks almost like break dancing fused with tap. The guy who jumps rope and taps was also pretty amazing. About the only flat moment was the lady balladeer. This isn't entirely her fault--as there was an issue with the quality of the sound. The bottom line is that this film features some amazing stuff--so amazing you can understand why today there's such nostalgia for the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s.
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