While I was not originally going to watch this musical short since I usually hate musical shorts, I decided to see it when I saw that it was directed by none other than Buster Keaton!! It was obvious looking at Keaton's career that MGM had absolutely no idea how to use his many talents. Starting in the sound era, MGM did practically everything they could to unintentionally waste his talents. The first was pairing the visual comic with the loud, brash and pretty obnoxious Jimmy Durante. Their styles had absolutely nothing in common and Keaton just looked lost in the films--and worst of all, they weren't funny. It was so bad that by the late 1930s, he all but disappeared from the screen except in bit roles. MGM didn't know what to do with this contracted player, so they assigned him to direct some shorts. And the short, overall, is good and achieves what it intended--a short and amiable musical interlude before or between features. However, fans looking for a short that transcends this limited goal (such as Keaton's silent shorts) will be disappointed.
In addition, the film is in some ways uncomfortable to watch here in the 21st century and is an important history lesson. The singing group in the film is made up of some talented Black men who, at times, act pretty stereotypical for the time period. Blacks were not often seen in mainstream films of the era, but when they did they were usually servants or child-like "boys" who could sing and dance. The singing is excellent and catchy, but you can't help but feel that the film is patronizing and these men are allowed to act within very prescribed limits--the characters can't have depth or anguish--they must enjoy being exactly who they are and nothing more.
This short isn't quite as good as a previous one I saw featuring the band entitled "STREAMLINE SWING", but it's still an interesting little curio. The men in the band work at the race track. Because of their hard work and decency, the owner of a race horse gives them his prized horse! They envision great wealth, but the plot doesn't exactly work out as they expected! Along the way, there's a lot of decent singing and energy. These men were talented--it's just a darn shame the only films they were offered were so very limited and stereotypical.
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