Music | 1940 | Sound | B/W
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A short wartime film featuring 1930s/40s British jazz / swing group Harry Parry and his Radio Rhythm Club Sextet, with guest appearances by vocalists Rita Marlowe, Primrose Hayes and Johnny Green.
As the music begins, the credits appear, 'An Inspiration Film' and 'Produced and Directed by Horace Shepherd' appearing against a kaleidoscopic background of musical notes.
We see a spinning 78 rpm record. As the music changes to a different composition, we are inside an army barracks, a soldier in the foreground sitting on his bed, clapping along to the record that he is playing on a gramophone; and another soldier, who we follow around the foot of the bed towards a mirror to the left, where he adjusts his tie, as he questions the other man about the music, showing evident distaste for it; he turns round briefly to express his preference for 'beer and skittles', then looks back to the mirror to put on his hat; the camera moves to the right to concentrate on the 'swing' fan, who lifts the record off the gramophone and holds it in his hands, dreaming of seeing Harry Parry and his Sextet.
A close-up of his hands holding the Parlophone 78, fading to a silent shot of the band's drummer playing, introduced as Sid Raymond (SR); followed by Sam Lounow (SL) on double bass, Yorke De Sousa (YDS) on piano, Dave Wilkins (DW) on trumpet, Jimmy Skidmore (JS) on tenor saxophone, the vocalists Primrose Hayes (PH), Rita Marlowe (RM) and Johnny Green (JG), who are introduced only by their forenames, and finally Harry Parry (HP) himself on clarinet; we are returned to the image of the 78 record.
The 'swing' fan, still on his bed, holds the record and rests it on the gramophone again, before lying back along the bed, with his head at the right of the screen, cigarette in mouth and hands behind his head, as he listens to a radio broadcast of the Harry Parry Sextet. We see the reflection of the relaxed listener in the mirror that appeared earlier. A direct view of the soldier listening and smoking, as the camera moves down along the bed, and the picture gradually yields to a view of the Harry Parry Sextet, playing 'Honeysuckle Rose': from left to right in the foreground, JS, HP (in white tuxedo, in contrast to the dark tuxedos of the other members), DW and JG in a row; and behind them, from left to right, the end of the piano (YDS is not visible) with SL glimpsed behind it, SR, PH and RM, along with two white columns, a network of small white arches and a large potted plant, which give the set a 'palm court' ambience.
A more inclusive view of the group, bringing the pianist YDS into view on the far left. A closer view of SR to the left of the screen, HP finishing his part in the chorus and turning towards SR on drums to conduct, and DW further right, taking a trumpet solo, with JG sitting beside him on the far right, moving to the rhythm, and PH and RM visible behind; at one point, HP walks across behind DW to say something to RM, then walks back to face SR, briefly turning along the way to smile at the camera.
JS stands up to take his saxophone solo, with SL on bass behind him to the left and HP just visible to the right of the screen, still facing SR; the camera moves to the left to rest on YDS taking a stylish piano solo, with SL visible at the top right corner; HP enters the picture from the left and leans on the side of the piano, before facing the camera in front, as he contributes his solo; the camera moves right, as HP walks across and eventually off-screen, leaving SL starting to take his bass solo, with JS sitting in the foreground at the end of the piano. Close-up of SL plucking the bass heavily and rocking distinctively; the camera moves right to a close-up of SR taking a drum solo in front of one of the white columns and the rows of small white arches. A distant view of the whole group, as they bring the tune to a close.
A close view of HP walking through the group, complimenting them and inviting RM to sing; the camera moves in on RM getting up from her seat. HP leads RM by hand to the front, where she stands to sing Hoagy Carmichael's 'Rockin' Chair', with JS on the far left of the screen, HP behind between the two of them, DW immediately behind RM, and PH visible at top right in the background. Close-up of RM singing, her style more formal than jazz, with little blues inflection; HP's clarinet and shoulder are just visible at bottom left, before he moves across to his usual position facing SR, once the rhythm section enters the performance. View of JS and DW either side of RM, HP behind between them, and SR just visible in the background, as RM gives way to an instrumental break. A head-and-shoulders view of RM taking up the vocals again, with HP half in view at left edge of the screen; the camera retreats to bring JS and DW into the picture again either side of her, with HP behind and SR in the background, as the song is brought to a close.
A pair of feet and legs are seen extending from a stool: the camera moves up to reveal JG asleep, arms folded and head down; DW turns towards him and feigns panic, saying, 'Wake up, boy, you're going to miss the train', as the music that the rest of the band have begun to play imitates the sound of a train's whistle; JG adjusts his bow tie and walks to the left, past PH and RM in the background, eventually taking his position directly in front of SR, with JS beside him to the left and HP behind between them; he begins singing 'Travelling Blues'. A less familiar view from a side angle, showing in a row from left to right JS, JG and DW, with SL and SR behind, and PH and RM seated far in the background to the right of the screen. Back to the previous shot. Back to the side view again. A close-up of JG singing, accompanied only by the rhythm section, with HP visible to the left behind. A view of JG still singing, with JS to the left, HP just behind and SR largely obscured in the background; JG moves off-screen to the right, as HP moves in front of SR, and together with JS at the left of the screen, they contribute to an instrumental break; the camera moves slightly left to bring SL on bass into view. We return to a side view, which now includes all the group except for the pianist YdS, with JG seated once more to the right of DW.
The tune ends quite abruptly, and HP immediately turns and invites PH to come to the front: momentarily, HP and PH stand side-on to us, between JS and DW, as the leader asks the vocalist what she is looking so miserable about, allowing PH to introduce Duke Ellington's 'I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good'; she moves into the foreground to sing, so that she is in front of and between HP and DW. A close-up view of PH singing, with HP beside a white column to the left behind her and DW playing muted trumpet seated to the right. A closer view of PH singing, with HP visible to the left behind her. Back to the previous view. Then, to the closer shot again, with HP to the left behind, listening respectfully. We return to the earlier view of PH between HP and the seated DW, as the tune approaches its conclusion; at the end, HP steps up to her and she returns to her seat at the back; HP is looking across at DW, who has started to sing the last tune appallingly, looking down at his instrument.
A close-up of a slightly embarrassed HP calling DW over. DW stands up, with PH seen grinning in the background, and HP asks him whether he thinks he can sing, causing DW to giggle coyly into his hand; as HP repeats the question, DW nods, and HP's asking him whether he wants to dance allows DW to introduce the song 'I Can't Dance, I Got Ants In My Pants'; the camera focuses on DW dancing as he begins singing, with HP behind him to the left, and soon DW and the rest of the band are swapping vocals (basically, the song title). DW sings, with JS to the left, HP behind between them and PH and RM in the background; all are seen repeating DW's gestures as he sings. A close view of DW singing, and tapping himself on the forehead as he sings 'Oh my goodness, this is the business', with HP just visible to the left behind. Back to the previous view, as DW finishes his vocals and walks ahead off-screen, and HP contributes a solo.
DW is now in front of the stage on which the band are playing, dancing in front of two steps, with the rest of the band in view behind, except for the pianist. A closer view of DW dancing in eccentirc fashion, with arms folded and head jutting forward, with JS and the bottom halves of HP, PH and RM visible in the background. We return to the previous, more distant shot of DW dancing, now kicking out with his right leg, until he eventually turns his back to us and walks up onto the stage to his empty chair, where he picks up his trumpet, while HP takes another solo. HP finishes his solo and turns round to face SR and keep the rhythm, while in the foreground DW launches into a trumpet solo, with PH visible behind to the left and JG seated at the right edge of the screen; the camera moves left slightly, as HP turns round and at the far left JS stands up to add his tenor saxophone to the concluding chorus.
A more distant view of the group, except for the pianist, as they resume playing 'Honeysuckle Rose'. Darkness gradually creeps up the screen and the camera is soon moving up the legs and reclining body of the soldier once more, his left hand tucked behind his head and a cigarette in his right hand; he says, 'Thanks, Harry. That sure was a swell drop of jazz', before putting his cigarette in his mouth and both his hands behind his head once more, his face showing supreme contentment. His reflection appears in the mirror. Closing credits.
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