Archive for August 18, 2008

Haunting Me

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on August 18, 2008 by dcairns

Twenty years ago I saw a documentary on film restoration, where B.F.I. eggheads were labouring to preserve a musical number, shot in early colour, from a 1930s British musical. It was an epic number, starring a legendary blues singer, and although the sequence deeply impressed me, I promptly forgot the name of the documentary, the film, and the singer.

Well thanks to a fellow rejoicing in the sobriquet of “Captain Waggett” at the excellent BritMovie discussion boards, I now learn that the lady was Alberta Hunter, the film was RADIO PARADE OF 1935 and the colour process was the obscure Dufaycolor. And it’s on YouTube!

The restoration only went partway, I guess. I wonder what digital mucking-about could accomplish now? Still, incredible sequence. The white girls in phony-African Tarzan costumes perhaps detract slightly from the point of the song, but at least their not blacked up, and I guess there may have been a shortage of dark-skinned chorines in 30s London.

Anyway, maybe we don’t require our musical numbers to be perfectly tasteful.


Nothing beats WONDER BAR for sheer offense. Not for the faint of heart.

Al Jolson in blackface may seem as far as you can go, but adding a little girl in blackface certainly ups the creep factor. Would it be BETTER if she was authentically black? I’m not sure it would, although at least it would add to the redistribution of wealth. But Busby Berkeley, for he is the mastermind pulling the strings with gin-palsied fingers, has only just begun to offend.


Whew. Just when I was thinking, “Where’s the watermelon? There HAS to be watermelon,” along it came. The sequence actually ratchets up the offense so high it emerges into the clear blue stratosphere of Weird Innocence. It’s hard to get angry at something so demented. Or maybe you disagree? Thoughts and arguments are welcome.

At least it’s good to know that gay Jewish tailors in blackface will go to heaven.