Soundies featuring Dorothy Dandridge

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Cow Cow Boogie (1942) —  In this 1942 Soundie, featuring the song “Cow Cow Boogie” (Benny Carter, Gene DePaul, Don Raye), Dorothy Dandridge sings and performs as the principal dancer. Freddy Slack & his Orchestra, with vocal by Ella Mae Morse, had a 1942 hit with their recording of the song. The November 1943 recording by the Ink Spots and Ella Fitzgerald was a top ten hit in 1944, #1 on the R&B chart.

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Soundies were three-minute musical films, produced in New York City, Chicago, and Hollywood, between 1940 and 1946, often including short dance sequences, similar to later music videos. The completed Soundies were generally released within a few months of their filming; the last group was released in March 1947. The films were displayed on the Panoram, a coin-operated film jukebox or machine music, in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, factory lounges, and amusement centers. — from the Wikipedia article

In the 1941 Soundie A Jig in the Jungle, aka Jungle Jig, Dorothy Dandridge demonstrates a bikini five years before two Frenchmen supposedly independently invented it. While the title phrase could refer to a dance, it appears to be a not too subtle euphemism for having sex. Joyfully mocking stereotypes, the lyric celebrates love run wild, nudity, and (if the word “cookin'” is taken literally) cannibalism.*

A Jig in the Jungle (Jungle Jig) (1941) — See complete lyric at bottom of this page

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Swing for My Supper (1941) – This was, according to the site Wild Realm Reviews, Dandridge’s first Soundie. I haven’t found songwriter credits yet and the opening credits are missing.

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Lazybones, the 1941 soundie,features Hoagy Carmichael, vocals/piano with (unseen) Bob Crosby and his Orchestra, and dance by Dorothy Dandridge and Peter Ray. The song Lazybones (Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer) was written and introduced in 1933. Ted Lewis and Mildred Bailey had early hit records.

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The Soundie A Zoot Suit with a Reet Pleat features the song A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal) written by Ray Gilbert and Bob O’Brien. This 1942 soundie features vocal performances by Dorothy Dandridge and Paul White. They are supported by Ted Fio Rito & his Orchestra (unseen).

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Paper Doll (Johnny S. Black) — The song was written in 1915, although it was not published until 1930. Black’s greatest commercial success would come with his song “Dardanella,” which sold 5,000,000 copies in a recording by bandleader Ben Selvin in 1920, and a further 2,000,000 copies of sheet music. Black died in 1936, six years before his second biggest hit, “Paper Doll,” swept the country. — Wikipedia excerpt, adapted

The Soundie Paper Doll features the vocals of the Mills Brothers, with dancing by Dorothy Dandridge. Dandridge is the paper doll which transforms into a live, though still doll-sized, dancing woman after her figure is cut from a large photograph.

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* Objections to this short film because of it’s pseudo-primitive-tribal/jungle theme in music, dance, and dress seem rather puritanical to me. Was it a white man’s fantasy? Perhaps. Have African American film makers made far more risque films, with equally sterotypical characters, dress, and themes? Definitely. Is it possible to make or perform in such a film and call it good, wholesome fun? Why not?** Jungle Jig confronts examples of racial stereotyping, including some of the worst fears of certain white men about so-called “primitive” races or cultures (uninhibited sexuality, immorality, cannibalism) with joyful mockery of the stereotypes.

** I am not entirely insensitive to the many issues involved. Racial stereotypes were still accepted as facts by a large majority of Americans at the time this was made. Law, custom (mores and tradition), prejudiced belief systems, ignorance, and pseudoscience variously provided support, and lent a veneer of legitimacy, to them.

Jig in the Jungle (authors unknown) lyric transcribed by doc, 18 Oct 2013

When the tom-toms beat it out
All the cats jump up and shout
They all do the jig in the jungle

Boys with big rings in their nose
Gals with everything but clothes
They all do the jig in the jungle

Anyplace your ol’ face might be lookin’
You may see a missionary cookin’
That’s the land where love runs wild
You won’t be no angel, child
When you do the jig in the jungle

Alligators swing and sway
Lions and tigers get that way
When they do the jig in the jungle

Haile Selassie, Gypsy Rose
Unit 16 (?), Major Bowes
They all do the jig in the jungle

It’s so grand to understand that lingo
Grab a chick that’s slick and holler Bingo!

You will find your every dream
Coming to you on the beam
When you do the jig in the jungle

Jig in the jungle (Jungle jig)
Jig in the jungle (Jungle jig)
Jig in the jungle (Jungle jig)

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