Hot Voodoo

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That beat gives me a wicked sensation
My conscience wants to take a vacation
Got voodoo, head to toes

Hot voodoo — Burn my clothes
I want to start dancing, just wearing a smile

Hot Voodoo (m. Ralph Rainger, w. Sam Coslow)

Marlene Dietrich and chorus — in the film Blonde Venus (1932), produced and directed for Paramount Pictures by Josef von Sternberg with a screenplay by Jules Furthman and S. K. Lauren adapted from a story by Furthman and von Sternberg. It is sung by Marlene Dietrich, with dancing provided by a chorus. IMDb indicates that the club at which the number is performed in the film is known as O’Connor’s.*

The chorus of girls who accompany Dietrich in the number enter from the audience’s left, as the number begins, decked in sequined leotards, feather tutus, and otherwise equipped and adorned in pseudo-primitive-tribal style. They carry spears and painted shields, and wear large Afros (hairstyle) and heavy “tribal” face paint, the latter giving each face a mask-like appearance. They are barefoot. A gorilla is being led by them on a chain. Brilliant so far. Unfortunately, following a brief pause in the music (2:19) that elicits applause, Dietrich begins to remove her gorilla costume.

After removing the head portion of the gorilla costume, Dietrich dons a blonde Shirley Temple-goes-Afro wig, which has the point and feather ends of two arrows stuck in it, arranged to give the appearance that the arrows have gone completely through the head. Ha ha. She then removes the rest of the ape outfit to reveal a glittery, heavily sequined and ornamented costume, featuring metallic breast shields and festooned with tufts of ostrich feathers about the shoulders and hips. Some of the photos above reveal that, unlike the chorus girls, who are barefoot, the star wears a pair of pointed, low-heel pumps. Removal of the gorilla suit not only uncovers the clown outfit underneath, but it enables Ms. Dietrich to “sing,” which she commences to do. You’ve been warned.

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1932-Blonde-Venus-Marlene-Dietrich-09

Lys Gauty interprétait en 1932 cette version française

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* I don’t know if O’Connor’s is a real or fictional club. Also, at IMDb, the “Star Cafe” and an unnamed “Paris nightclub” are given as the locations of two other performances in the film. There is no band identified, for any of the five numbers listed at IMDb, other than “the orchestra” for “Hot Voodoo.”

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Franklin John Kakies
    Dec 28, 2021 @ 22:18:11

    Well, somebody apparently doesn’t much care for ‘Hot Voodoo’ or Miss Marlene Dietrich for that matter, do they…

    Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but I believe to dissect this wonderfully mad number ‘rationally’ entirely misses the point. The song is very tongue-in-cheek, filled with clever innuendo; the staging is highly inventive; the gorilla suit is wonderfully convincing; Banton’s costumes (diamanté arrows piercing the platinum Afro and all) are witty and quite brilliant, and finally, Dietrich is obviously bemused by the whole thing and seems to be saying ‘I know this is essentially silly, but just watch me turn it into something highly entertaining and deeply memorable…

    “Oh, fireman–save this child…” (and why does every transcription of the lyrics read “conscious” when it is clearly her CONSCIENCE that wants to take a vacation…? I mean, seriously?)

    Oh, and it’s a MOVIE, and the night-club names are as ‘made up’ as the rest of it….

    Like

    Reply

    • musicdoc1
      Dec 29, 2021 @ 01:26:49

      Hi Franklin,

      Thanks for pointing out that it’s a MOVIE. Goodness, that never would have occurred to me. In your mind, I guess, there’s never been a fictional film that used the names of real nightclubs. Just couldn’t happen. The song is fine, well written — the arrangement, and performance of it by the band, excellent — and the staging is superb. Oh, but you haven’t changed my opinion at all about those elements, or about Dietrich’s “singing” and the cheesy clown outfit. I agree that “the gorilla suit is wonderfully convincing.” My complaint was that it was better left on.

      Happy New Year.😊

      ~doc

      Like

      Reply

    • musicdoc1
      Mar 28, 2022 @ 16:26:08

      Thanks for pointing out the misuse of “conscious” instead of “conscience” in the section of the lyric provided above, which I hadn’t noticed in your comment previously. I don’t recall whether I copied and pasted those lines or transcribed the words myself, but I know the difference between the two words and I’m embarrassed to have made or missed that error.

      Like

      Reply

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