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 credit for 'Piccadilly Cinematograph Film Productions Ltd' appears against a shot following traffic and people around the roundabout at Piccadilly Circus, accompanied by an up-tempo jazz number. The first few credits for guest performers appear on a background of cut-out stars and musical staves. The backdrop changes to a shot moving along Piccadilly towards the Circus. It changes once again to a slowly moving shot of the advertising boards at Piccadilly Circus, as the music changes to a slow blues performed with just piano and vocals. A stationary view of a London street, possibly Whitehall, credits continuing to appear. Two consecutive shots of high buildings provide the background for the final credits.
A vase of flowers stands on a polished table, while an armchair, two formal chairs and a side table beneath a mirror occupy the background; the camera approaches the vase, moves gradually leftwards around it, as the song changes, and then shifts suddenly rightwards to bring into view Bertie Jarrett, in a dark, double-breasted suit, singing at a grand piano, facing us at an angle; the camera moves slightly leftwards to bring the vase into view again at the left edge; just as he finishes playing, a phone is heard, and he looks to the left before getting up. We see his reflection coming towards us in the mirror above the side table, on which the telephone stands, until he appears in person and answers the phone. The caller, Johnny Worthy, also in a dark suit, holds a white phone and asks who's there (!). Bertie expresses frustration to his own reflection in the mirror. Johnny, stuttering slightly, finally explains who's calling, and invites Bertie to meet him at Mr Austin's office in half an hour. A side-on shot of Bertie agreeing and putting down the phone.
Behind a curved desk, a rather snobbish woman in a plumed hat, Miss Smedley, the owner of the Swing Out nightclub, sits on the left seeking reassurance from the agent Mr Austin (played by Ray Ellington who, together with Lauderic Caton and Coleridge Goode, would later contribute music, and occasionally characters, to The Goon Show) that there will be nothing 'blue' in his acts; the camera moves leftwards to bring Bertie and Johnny into view on the other side of the desk, who are to be guests at the club's gala opening; Bertie is about to interrupt, but Johnny grabs him by the arm.
Johnny and Bertie enter a side room, where Johnny insists that he listens. Close up of Bertie saying that he hears nothing. A shot of Johnny on the left and Bertie on the right, as the former looks forward to the promising gig. A secretary walks into Mr Austin's office and introduces the two other musicians who will be performing, the camera moving left to bring guitarist Loderick Caton and double bass player Coleridge Goode into view with their instruments. A shot of Bertie, whom Mr Austin has glanced across at. Mr Austin introduces Miss Smedley to the two musicians, and calls over Bertie, as the camera follows them all rightwards to a piano, where Bertie sits at the right of the screen, while on the left Caton puts his leg on a chair, as a rest for his guitar, and to the right of him Goode stands with his bass.
Close up of Bertie: 'You ready, boys? Let's go.' We return to the previous view, as they begin playing 'Carolina', Goode providing a bowed introduction and continuing to hold his bow as he plucks his bass. Mr Austin looks over to them, signalling approval, before turning the other way as Miss Smedley appears from the left and agrees that it has 'quite a swing about it'; Johnny walks on from left to stress that they haven't heard them at their best yet. A close up of Johnny telling Caton not to forget his wig that night. Back to the previous view, as Bertie appears from the right and is given by Miss Smedley the duty of compering the 'skating horse', about which he looks rather uneasy. Miss Smedley and Mr Austin conclude their deal behind the desk, before they both get up and Miss Smedley thanks Johnny and Bertie, who are off-screen.
The names 'Worthy and Jarrett' and 'The Skating Avalons' flash alternately beneath the Theatre Royal sign. A shot of the light at the Stage Door entrance.
An army officer and his wife come down some steps into a nightclub, followed by two elegant women, and then a man in dinner dress, who we will soon know as Freddie, while jazz music is heard in the background. Freddie is having a drink at the bar in the club, behind which two bartenders are working; he looks round.
Johnny and Bertie are in the dressing room at the theatre, wearing black and white dinner dress, and putting on smart cream hats with black bands, as they are called on stage.
On stage at the theatre, Johnny stands at the microphone at the front, introducing 'Walking On Air', while behind from left to right are Goode, Caton and Bertie at the piano. A view of the seated audience, including many men in uniform. A side shot from behind Johnny, as he sings, so that he is to the right of the screen with his back to us, and a conductor can be seen facing us on the left, in front of the audience. We return to the previous view of the whole group, the camera closing in until Goode is eventually excluded. As Johnny breaks into a dance routine, and Bertie takes over the vocals, the camera follows Johnny back and forth along the whole width of the stage in front of the group. A close shot of Johnny's feet from a side angle, with Goode visible at top right. The view from in front of the group once more, as they bring the number to a close. A shot of the audience applauding.
A close up of Johnny introducing 'Carolina', asking the electrician for 'a spotlight just about our colour'. A shot of Goode and Caton playing the introduction, Goode using his bow. A compact view of the group as they play, with, from left to right, Goode, Caton, Bertie at the piano, and Johnny standing beside him, both singing. A close up of Goode and Caton, before the camera moves rightwards, keeping Caton on the left edge of the screen, to concentrate on Bertie and Johnny, the former now singing alone, somewhat in the manner of Fats Waller. We return to the view of the whole group again, as the two vocalists sing along to Goode's bowed solo. A close view of Goode and Caton, before the camera shifts rightwards to focus on Caton's guitar break. The view of the whole group once more. As the vocals are resumed, a view of Caton, Bertie and Johnny, eventually reduced to just the vocalists. A view of the whole group. As we hear applause, the image fades to Johnny approaching the dressing room and a white woman leaving.
Jill Allen is on a platform in the nightclub, singing 'Honeysuckle Rose' with an all-black jazz group behind her: from left to right, a conductor, a tenor saxophonist, a drummer further in the background, and a baritone saxophone player. Freddie sits alone at a table, with three people at a table behind; as his girlfriend, Joyce, arrives, he stands up and offers her a seat. A view of the band, as the vocals end, and a trumpeter, who has been obscured by the tenor saxophonist, stands to take a rather sleepy solo. A nice shot of the trumpeter, surrounded by the leaves of a potted palm tree. A rather extraordinary shot of the shadow of the trumpeter against a wall, dwarfing the audience seated at tables below, with the piano in the foreground, and the pianist's hands just visible on the keyboard at the left edge. A close view of the trumpeter, as he finishes, before the camera moves slightly right for a very close shot of Allen resuming her rather bland vocals. A shot of Allen, with the drummer behind at botom left. A view of the band finishing, as if from among the audience, with, from left to right, Allen, the baritone saxophonist, the pianist, the bass player and some of the audience at tables; Allen steps down to applause and leaves at the left of the screen. A close view of smart people at tables applauding.
Johnny stands at the microphone to introduce vocalist Maudie Edwards, the camera gliding leftwards to show her entering to applause. Freddie and Joyce sit at their table, enjoying the show. Edwards sings (aptly, some might say) 'I Just Don't Know How To Swing', with the tenor saxophonist visible behind on the left and the pianist on the right edge. A shot of, from right to left, a man holding a microphone towards the musicians, the guitarist, the pianist, and slightly further forward the bass player. A close shot of Edwards from a side angle. We return to the first view of her in front of the band. The close side-on view again. The view of the microphone holder and three musicians again. The side view of Edwards. The view of her in front of the band; as she finishes, Johnny stands up at right and applauds, as she walks off the right edge of the screen.
Johnny faces the drummer, then turns around to introduce 'Walking On Air'. A shot of his feet apparently doing just that, before we see them touch the ground and tap dance, the camera soon moving up to show Johnny dancing in front of the band. As the song ends, he stands at the microphone, the tenor saxophonist and trumpeter visible at the left behind him, to introduce that '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.
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.
Johnny stands in front of the band at the nightclub and introduces Sonny, 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 Loderick Caton and Coleridge Goode behind on the left.
'The End' appears.
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