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All 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 16mm projector.


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 featured.

From the UCLA Film Library Web Site




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