Fats Waller (1976 review)

This appeared in the July 1976 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin (vol. 43, no. 510). 8/25 correction/ postscript: Ehsan Khoshbakht, who provided me with some more illustrations, informs me that (a) Sedric is playing tenor sax, not alto, (b) that a fourth Waller soundie that wasn’t included in the compilation I reviewed, “Your Feet’s Too Big ,” was actually the first one, and that (c) the photo at the bottom of this post, which I included just because I like it, actually comes from Stormy Weather. —J.R.

Fats Waller

U.S.A., 1941
Director:
Warren Murray

Dist—TCB. p.c—Official Films. m/songs–“Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “The Joint is Jumpin’” by Thomas “Fats” Waller. performed by–Fats Waller (piano, vocals), John Hamilton (trumpet), Gene Sedric (alto sax), Al Casey (guitar), Cedric Wallace (bass), Wilmore “Slick” Jones (drums), Myra Johnson (vocals). No further credits available. 314 ft. 9 min. (16 mm.).

A collection of three “soundies” made in the early Forties — mini-films designed to be shown on tiny screens inside jukeboxes — this entertaining short displays Waller’s showmanship at its flashiest. All three numbers are played in the midst of enthusiastic crowds — a bevy of women in the first two, a wild party in the third — and the visible responses, however jokey and concocted (one woman hugs Waller while another gets jealous; an angry female neighbor throws a shoe through the window and phones the police), never compete too seriously with the rollicking tunes. Waller dominates throughout with his piano, vocals, quizzical eyebrows, hand gestures, eyerolling, and asides (“Pat me on my back and call me Shorty”), but Gene Sedric, Al Casey, and Myra Johnson are all accorded solos, and drummer “Slick” Jones comes close to stealing the screen in the final number with his frantically synchronized gum-chewing.

Monthly Film Bulletin, July 1976

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