Music | 1920 | Sound | B/W
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Duke Ellington in a drama vehicle for some amazing jazz and blues music. Excellent ' Cotton Club ' sequence and tap dancing routines. Duke Ellington plays hot jazz in a fictional story that finds him down on his luck; he tries in vain to dissuade his friend, dancer Fredi Washington, from working with heart trouble even though it means work for his band. Sure enough, she collapses on stage.
Practically plotless excuse to feature the music of Ellington, accompanied by Harlem dancers.
The entire film consists essentially of 3 tableau set pieces, ornamented with some camera tricks.
Of note is the derogatory racial stereotyping of the two characters who begin the film by showing up to repossess the Duke's piano. They are ridiculed for their illiteracy and for how easily they are dissuaded from their duties with a bribe of a bottle of hooch.
At start, we see Duke Ellington with his back to the camera sitting at a piano and smoking. He teaches Arthur Whetsol who plays a trumpet a new tune. Man and boy enter butcher's shop and look around apartment for an address. Man and boy are to repossess a piano, but are persuaded not to when presented with drink.
Five men perform a tap dance routine in a nightclub. They reappear and perform other dance. They are interestingly positioned standing very close to each other in a line and perform a simple dance routine. Their reflection in the polished floor. Fredi Washington is ill with a heart condition and her vision becomes blurred and she sees kaleidoscopic images. She dances and collapses. Chorus line of six girls wearing feather headdresses, and decorations round their waists. Ellington stops playing and walks off stage.
Deathbed scene of girl, she dies as Ellington's face blurs.
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