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About Soundies ....
SOUNDIES can be considered the
precursors to music videos. Produced during the years 1940 to 1946,
Soundies were made to be seen on self-contained, coin-operated, 16mm
rear projection machines called Panorams. They were located in
nightclubs, bars, restaurants and other public places. Eight Soundies,
featuring a variety of musical performances, were generally spliced
together on a reel which ran in a continuous loop. The Panoram, a
complicated and unique machine, later served as the basis for the RCA
Soundies were produced by
various companies such as Minoco and RCM Productions, headed
by FDR's son James Roosevelt, Sam Coslow a song writer and Herbert Mills, a pioneer
in the development of arcade music machines.
In order to achieve the widest
possible distribution, soundies covered the gamut of musical styles from
country and western to Russian balalaika music, tenors singing Irish
folksongs, the big band swing music of Stan Kenton and Tommy Dorsey and
jazz Greats, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole.
A Soundie reel sometimes included
cheesecake segments--striptease, burlesque routines or shots of women in
bathing suits--specifically intended to attract wartime military
personnel on leave. Appeals for war bonds and other patriotic messages
("We're All Americans", "When Hitler Kicks the
Bucket", "The White Cliffs of Dover") were included.
Soundies often starred little known performers who later became famous,
such as Alan Ladd, Cyd Charisse, Doris Day and Ricardo Montalban, as
well as performers on their way down. Many African-American performers
like Dorothy Dandridge, Louis Armstrong and Stepin Fetchit who were
largely absent from mainstream films except in minor roles, were
From the UCLA Film Library Web Site
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