CINEMA: MAKERS OF MELODY

VINTAGE MUSICAL SHORTS, NOW ON VIDEO, RECALL THE EARLY PRIME OF CROSBY, MERMAN AND THE DUKE

In The Jazz Singer, after Al Jolson says, "You ain't heard nothin' yet," he doesn't burst into speech. He sings Toot Toot Tootsie. In the dawn of sound, talking pictures were often singing ones. Hollywood released 55 musicals in 1929, an amazing 78 in 1930. And these were just the feature films. To pad the program, studios made shorts (typically 10 minutes) in which stars from Broadway, radio and nightclubs performed and, as best they could, acted in a dramatic setting. Back then these films--the equivalent of short stories, but with songs--were fillers. Today they're thrillers, precious documents of American music...

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