Music | 1940 | Sound | B/W
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A post-war British jazz and dance film, with a basic narrative, interesting for featuring some of the small but significant group of Afro-Caribbean musicians and entertainers who made a significant contribution to the musical nightlife of London during and immediately after the Second World War.
The pianist and singer Bertie Jarrett approaches a young woman at the reception desk of a nightclub, who asks if he is leaving already. A close up of Bertie, who explains that he loves animals and cannot agree to compere an act involving a 'skating horse'. (Earlier in the film he was asked by the nightclub owner to fulfil this duty, but she neglected to explain that it was a pantomime horse). A close up of the woman suggesting that he contact the RSPCA. An exchange of close shots of each of them follows, as the conversation continues along these lines, until Bertie walks off.
A member of the audience at the club, in dinner dress, Freddie, appears from left, as the amused woman explains what has happened. A series of close shots of each of them follows, as the woman tells him who the two occupiers of the 'horse' are, one of whom, George Travers, sounds familiar to him. A close shot of Freddie pondering the name.
A more distant view of Freddie at the reception, as Joyce appears in her coat, saying that she must not be late for her 'partner'. We see Joyce and Freddie side-on behind a balcony, as he upsets her by talking mockingly of her 'partner', her 'leading man' (as he now realises that George Travers is the 'partner' that she has mentioned and that she is the other half of the 'horse'); she runs away from him. Joyce walks past the reception, but the young woman there calls her back. Alternating close ups of Joyce and the receptionist, as Joyce tells her that she should tell her 'partner', who has been asking for her, that she has sprained her ankle dancing. Joyce walks away from the counter.
A view, over the audience at tables inside the club, towards the band on the platform in the distance. The hostess of the nightclub walks on to applause. A close view of her announcing that 'Johnny has at last found Bertie', followed by their appearance from the side. Singer Johnny Worthy, in cream jacket and dark trousers, announces that his 'partner in crime' will now perform 'St Louis Blues'. We return to the previous view over the audience. A side-on view of the piano, as the regular pianist gets up to allow Bertie to take his place, as the song starts up; behind him can be seen the tenor saxophonist, the guitarist and the bass player, with the regular pianist listening to the right. A close view of Bertie side-on at the piano, singing, with the double bass just visible at top left, and listeners at a table in the background. A more direct view of Bertie, with the guitar visible behind him and the bassist's hand moving at the right edge. The previous side-on view.
As he begins to scat, we return to the first view that we had of him and the band. A shot of Bertie, with a table of listeners behind, shouting vocals leftwards to the rest of the band. A shot of the tenor saxophonist in the foreground, and behind, the other saxophonist, the trumpeter and drummer, all lobbing back vocals. Bertie, with the guitarist behind, throwing out vocals again. The same view of the band members replying. A repeat of the last two shots. The original view of Bertie with band members and usual pianist. A shot of Bertie finishing the song, with the guitarist behind. A long view from the end of the club of the band being conducted to a close by Johnny, with audience at tables on the right of the screen; band and audience applaud, as Bertie walks off left.
A drunk man leans with his back to the bar, and when an anxious Freddie appears from the right to order 'a large Scotch', he mocks his accent, saying 'I thought you only drunk Champagne.'
Johnny announces at the microphone in front of the band that the skating horse is unable to appear, but he does introduce the 'dynamic little man of drumology, that master of swinging agility, Frederick Cornelius Ulyssitous (?) Croft (?), a black boy of about ten, dressed in top hat and tails, who appears at the drums behind, as the band starts 'Ain't She Sweet'.
A long view, as if from the end of the club, with the band visible on the left of the screen, the audience at tables on the right, and the dance floor in the foreground; the boy drummer steps off the platform and begins to play his sticks on a table in front. A view of a table, as the boy appears and taps on a vase of flowers, including the flowers themselves, and various glasses. Another table, where he performs the same routine. A view of his feet, and hands playing his sticks, along the dance floor surface; the camera moves right and upwards, as the boy plays on a cigarette seller's tray, then on a neighbouring table, before he disappears off right. We return to the long view towards the bandstand to see him step back on.
A close shot of him playing on the guitarist's instrument, the musician looking at first resentful, then grudgingly smiling, while the tenor saxophonist is visible at the left edge, the pianist at bottom right and the bass player at top right; the camera follows the boy to the right, as he similarly plays upon the double bass, with the pianist still visible in the foreground. The long view of the club, showing the boy drummer running forwards off the bandstand and sliding on his stomach along the dance floor. A close shot of him arriving in this fashion at a wine cooling bucket on a stand beside a table, on which he gives a concluding strike, to resounding applause.
Joyce and the agent Mr Austin (played by jazz drummer and vocalist Ray Ellington) stand behind his curved, cluttered desk, as he upbraids her for not having stayed for her performance the previous night. A close up of Joyce, as she explains that her boyfriend had laughed at her. The view of the two of them, until the camera moves left to show Johnny entering the door and scolding Joyce, who soon follows him rightwards.
Johnny puts down his hat and coat, as Joyce appears on the right, and he insists that the show must always go on. A close up of Joyce listening, as Johnny reflects on how there are always people who want to do something different to what they are doing now. A close up of Johnny, as he says that he understands that she wants to be a ballerina, but adds that 'whatever you do, try and be the best in that particular line.' A brief shot of the two of them, as Johnny finishes. Mr Austin sits smoking at his desk, as Joyce appears at the side, agreeing that Johnny is talking sense; the camera follows her towards the office door, as Johnny adds that he'll be there next time. Joyce walks through the door, closing it after her.
Mr Austin, still sitting behind the desk, is approached by Johnny from the left, who reassures him about Joyce; the camera moves left to capture Bertie's entrance, accompanied by a whinny, and it remains on Bertie and Johnny for some comic banter, as Bertie says that he is now willing to compere the 'skating horse', having just seen the hind legs outside!
A view of Johnny drying his face with a towel, with Bertie to the right of him, in the Theatre Royal dressing room; there is a knock and they turn around and greet singer and dancer Sonny Thomas on an unexpected visit; he agrees to join them later at the Swing Out club.
Three smart members of the nightclub audience sit sipping drinks and smoking at a table, before the club hostess appears from the top right of the screen and wishes them a good evening; a man appears from right with a card requesting that Johnny sing 'Solitude'. Freddie sits at a table, looking around nervously.
Johnny stands in front of the band, who play the introduction to the song, with some audience seated to the left; as he starts crooning the song in quite a high voice, the surrounding lights dim and a spotlight is thrown upon his face, the camera moving slowly towards him, until it is close to his head and shoulders, then slowly withdrawing (all making for a surprisingly moving performance); the lights come on again as he hits his final note, after which he bows to applause, with slightly more audience now visible on the left.
Bertie is standing to the left of the roller-skating pantomime horse, whom he reassures, as the owner / trainer, a young woman in a sequined outfit appears from left carrying a whip, and turns the 'horse' round, leading it skating away from us.
A close shot of Johnny at the microphone introducing 'the skating horse'. The trainer and the pantomime horse come down the steps gingerly into the club. Freddie looks on amused from his table, stopping Bertie as he walks past leftwards. The horse contorts itself into a bow beside a table on the right, the trainer standing to the left, and the pianist visible at his piano in the background. Freddie writes a note for Joyce, which he gives to Bertie, who remarks on the horse's 'tasty' hind legs, before walking off left, leaving Freddie laughing. The horse and trainer are seen moving down a corridor and turning right to the dressing room, followed by Bertie, who whinnies just before he turns into the room. A close view of Joyce emerging from the back end of the pantomime horse, the camera moving up to show Bertie arriving and giving her the note; Joyce asks him if he can roller-skate and leaves him with her half of the horse costume, as he looks rightwards after her, with some relish; we are left with a comic image, as the man occupying the front legs stands on the left of the screen, holding the horse's head next to Bertie's, and apparently looking in the same direction.
Joyce approaches Freddie, who gets up and asks if he has been forgiven; he quickly offers to be her partner in the act from now on, and they leave the table.
Johnny stands in front of the band at the nightclub and introduces Sonny Thomas, who walks on from left, but agrees to sing only if Johnny accompanies him; the latter suggests 'Harlem Jamboree'; they look back at the band, as it strikes up. A view of Johnny and Sonny singing and dancing (in the manner made popular at the Cotton Club in Harlem in the 1930s) on the dance floor in front of the bandstand, with tables of listeners at both edges of the screen. A closer view of them, with, in the background, the baritone saxophonist on the left, and the trumpeter behind him, the drummer in the middle and the tenor saxophonist on the right. We return to the longer view of them. The closer view again. A striking view over the shoulders of the two singers, with some of the audience visible beyond; Johnny, on the right, looks back towards us a little as he sings. The closer view. The long shot once more; as the song appears to be ending, the drummer gives a brief solo, and a spotlight is thrown on the two singers, who throw themselves into a more flamboyant dance routine.
A close view of their dancing in front of the band. Another view of them from behind, but more distant and looking down on them, with the piano in the foreground. The previous close view. A close shot of Johnny's feet tap dancing, before they disappear off the screen at top left, soon to be replaced by Sonny's feet from bottom left. A view of the two of them dancing in front of the band again. The camera moves rightwards along a row of tables at which well-heeled people are seen swaying, snapping their fingers, clapping and laughing. The camera focuses on a few tables from where everyone is rising to dance. People dance around the piano, which stands in the foreground. The camera closes in upon Johnny and Bertie at a piano on the right of the screen, with guitarist Loderick Caton and bassist Coleridge Goode behind on the left.
'The End' appears.
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