Original Soundtrack

Star Spangled Rhythm/Footlight Parade

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Star Spangled Rhythm/Footlight Parade Review

by William Ruhlmann

On this unlicensed disc, the Italian label Great Movie Themes combines music taken directly from the soundtracks of two movie musicals that are unrelated, except that Dick Powell appeared in both of them. Paramount's Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) was an all-star extravaganza made during World War II for which songwriters Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer created special material to suit the talents of the performers. Powell joins with Mary Martin and the Golden Gate Quartet on "Hit the Road to Dreamland." The assembly lines of women who turned out arms for the war effort are evoked in "On the Swing Shift" and "I'm Doing It for Defense," the latter crafted to the riotous style of Betty Hutton. The identifiable attributes of three Hollywood starlets are spotlighted in "A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peek-A-Boo Bang," sung by "sweater girl" Paulette Goddard; Dorothy Lamour, who was known to play dusky, scantily clad women of the South Sea Islands; and Veronica Lake (dubbed here by Martha Mears), whose long blonde hair was parted on the side in such a way that one of her eyes was covered. Johnny Johnston essays the film's best-known number, "That Old Black Magic" (which also turned up in other films of the time). Jack Benny's foil, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, growls his way through "Sharp as a Tack." And Bing Crosby brings things to a patriotic conclusion with "Old Glory." Warner Bros.' Footlight Parade (1933) moves back in time nine years to the early period of movie musicals. Here Powell, in a more prominent role, partners with Ruby Keeler and James Cagney in a backstage story with some enormous production numbers staged by Busby Berkeley (whose work, of course, cannot be appreciated on the CD). The songs, alternately by the teams of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, and Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, are stretched out into suites to accompany all the choreography. "By a Waterfall," "Honeymoon Hotel," and "Shanghai Lil" take up nearly half an hour in total, which is to say, nearly half of the CD's entire running time. (Still, there would have been space for "Ah the Moon Is Here," which was in the film but is not on this album.)

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