Soundies featuring Dorothy Dandridge


Cow Cow Boogie (1942) —  In this 1942 Soundie, featuring the song “Cow Cow Boogie” (Benny Carter, Gene DePaul, Don Raye) Dorothy Dandridge, looking cute in a short skirt cowgirl outfit, punctuates her vocals with shimmies and hip shakes, backed by a group of hip-shaking chorines. 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.


from the Wikipedia page on “Soundies“:

Soundies are three-minute American musical films, produced between 1940 and 1947, each displaying a song, dance, and/or band or orchestral number. Produced professionally on 35 mm black-and-white film, like theatrical motion pictures, they were printed on the more portable and economical 16 mm film.

The films were shown in a coin-operated “movie jukebox” named the Panoram, manufactured by the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago. Each Panoram housed a 16 mm RCA film projector, with eight Soundies films threaded in an endless-loop arrangement. A system of mirrors flashed the image from the lower half of the cabinet onto a front-facing screen in the top half. Each film cost 10 cents to play, with no choice of song; the patron saw whatever film was next in the queue. Panorams could be found in public amusement centers, nightclubs, taverns, restaurants, and factory lounges, and the films were changed weekly. The completed Soundies were generally made available within a few weeks of their filming, by the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America.

In the 1941 Soundie A Jig in the Jungle, aka Jungle Jig, Dorothy Dandridge wears a bikini five years before two Frenchmen supposedly independently invented it. While the title phrase might 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 phrase “missionary cookin'” is taken a certain way) possibly cannibalism.*

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


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.


Lazybones — This 1941 soundie features Hoagy Carmichael on vocals/piano with (unseen) Bob Crosby and his Orchestra, and dance by Dorothy Dandridge and Peter Ray. The song “Lazybones” (m. Hoagy Carmichael, w. Johnny Mercer) was written and introduced in 1933. See our feature page on the song, here.


A Zoot Suit with a Reet Pleat (1942) – This 1942 Soundie 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).


Paper Doll (1942) — The song was written in 1915, by Johnny S. Black, although it was not published until 1930. The 1942 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.


* 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?

I am not entirely insensitive to the many issues involved. Racial stereotypes may have been still accepted as factually based 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. 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.

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’s 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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