The curtain opens; behind it are two pianos where Charles Bourne and Phil Ellis, billed as the Music Boxes, are seated playing. After a few bars, Blossom Seeley and Bennie Fields enter - ... See full summary »
It's best when the focus is solely on Rich and his orchestra.
Dick Rich and his orchestra are featured in this early sound short from Vitaphone. Recently, several sets of Vitaphone shorts have been assembled by scouring the world for both the film prints and accompanying sound discs used in the shorts during the 1920s (by the 30s, they'd switched to the far superior method of putting the sound on the film strip's edges). Because of this project, many completely forgotten vaudevillians and musicians are now available to see for the first time in many decades.
It's funny, but at the beginning of the film, Rich made a comment about Paul Whiteman--a much more famous band-leader of the era. In fact, Rich is the spitting image of Whiteman--like his long lost twin! As for the content, when it's just Rich and his orchestra, they are marvelous. The opening tune is probably the best but their 'whitified'* version of "St. Louis Blues" is also quite pleasing...if played a bit too fast. However, when dancers and the lady singer arrive...the short bogs down and you really are left wanting more of the band. Still, compared to most of the Vitaphone shorts of the 20s, this is among the best and is worth seeing.
*Whitified is a word of my own invention. It refers to when great tunes created by black performers were later remade and cleaned up to appeal to wider audiences. Often this meant slowing down the songs and occasionally cleaning up racy lyrics. This did NOT just begin in the rock 'n roll era when the likes of Pat Boone remade songs like "Tuti Fruiti" but long, long ago.
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