I’ve been meaning to post this short film for a while and finally got around to it. Back during the beginning of the sound era in the late 1920’s, through the end of the 1940’s, studios (particularly MGM and Warner Bros, who produced the most), made hundreds of short films. Running the gamut from comic to dramatic to musical to dance shorts, they were made to be shown with the studio’s feature films and “B” pictures.
In fact, there’s one that Warners made back in the mid 40’s with Katherine Dunham’s dance company, Carnival Of Rhythm, that builds to a frenzy and towards the end, is so daring in its overt sexuality that I’m amazed it got past the Motion Picture Production Code censors and decency board, which oversaw everything in movies back then. If I ever find a complete version of it I’ll be sure to post it.
But the short below, made in 1944, Jammin The Blues by Warners, is perhaps the greatest musical short made during that period. It features some of the greatest and most influential jazz musicians of all time including the legendary saxophonist Lester Young, who, for the uninitiated, is the first musician who appears in the short with his signature “sideways” hold of his sax.
The short (which is now available as part of a 6 DVD set of jazz and swing Warner shorts on the Warner Archive DVD label) was directed by the equally influential Albanian born photographer Gjon Mili, who became world renowned for his use of strobe flash lighting to create experimental multiple image photographs of dancers, athletes and musicians in action, which he recreates to an extent in this short, and which was also the only film he directed.
The short itself, aside from the great music and singing by Marie Bryant, who was also well known for her “exotic dancing,” which you’ll see in the film, is an evocatively photographed, almost experimental film that was totally unlike any short, or feature film for that matter, made at the time. Enjoy!