7.6/10
100
7 user 1 critic

Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life (1935)

Duke Ellington plays his symphonic jazz piece ('A Rhapsody of Negro Life') with his orchestra against slice-of-life background scenes. The four movements: 1) The Laborers, 2) A Triangle: ... See full summary »

Director:

Fred Waller

Writers:

Milton Hockey (continuity by) (as Milton Hocky), Fred Rath (continuity by)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Duke Ellington ... Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Duke Ellington Orchestra Duke Ellington Orchestra ... Themselves
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Storyline

Duke Ellington plays his symphonic jazz piece ('A Rhapsody of Negro Life') with his orchestra against slice-of-life background scenes. The four movements: 1) The Laborers, 2) A Triangle: Dance, Jealousy, Blues, 3) A Hymn of Sorrow, 4) Harlem Rhythm. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Plot Keywords:

african american | See All (1) »

Genres:

Short | Music

Certificate:

Unrated
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Details

Official Sites:

Kino International

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 September 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Headliners (1935-1936 Season) (#3): Symphony in Black See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Scatman Crothers is widely incorrectly reported as playing the jilting lover, actually played by Earl 'Snake Hips' Tucker, who also appears later in the short as a specialty dancer. See more »

Connections

Featured in Jazz (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

I've Got Those Lost My Man Blues
Sung by Billie Holiday in the Triangle section
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User Reviews

 
Superb.
14 July 2012 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

If you want to see this film, it's available in a compilation disc entitled "Hollywood Rhythm: Volume One" and is a set of musical shorts featuring Black artists of the 30s and 40s. The films were made by Paramount and is a rare case of a major studio featuring Black music to wider audiences of the day. This particular short is a highly condensed version of Ellington's much longer "Symphony in Black". It's divided into four parts and you see little vignettes acted out as the music plays. Some of the time, you don't see Ellington's orchestra--just Ellington himself sitting casually at the piano. A big debut here is Billie Holiday--a brilliant singer with a very tragic life. Overall, the piece is very polished--very classy and refined--much like Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess". Very watchable and enjoyable--it's just too bad it's not all of Ellington's piece--now THAT would be a great little slice of history.

By the way, on the disc, this and another Ellington short are among the very best stuff. What an artist!


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