29 January 2012 | tavm
Hit Parade of 1943 provided a nice supply of talented African-American musical performers
Just watched on Netflix Streaming this obscure musical comedy called Hit Parade of 1943 (though the print that ran on screen had another title called Change of Heart with the original in small print below it with "formerly" preceding it). In it, Susan Hayward plays Jill Wright, an aspiring songwriter who finds out the publisher and singer she's been going out with, Rick Ferrell (John Carroll), has taken sole author credit to her consternation. So she plots with her sister, Belinda (Eve Arden), to ruin him and his publishing partner, J. MacClellan Davis (Walter Catlett). Meanwhile, Ferrell is also dating a Toni Jarret (Gail Patrick). I'll stop there and just say that this was quite a funny and musically entertaining picture. In fact, I was surprised at how much I laughed at the whole thing with that cast. And much of the songs were quite enjoyable which probably shouldn't be a surprise since the writers were Jule Styne and Harold Adamson. The reason I decided to watch this one having not known about it before was because with Black History Month a few days away, I wanted to find out about what was available to view from someone like Dorothy Dandridge who was best known for Carmen Jones but had previously made various cameo and supporting parts in the preceding years. So when I looked her up on Netflix, this was listed as available for streaming. Anyway, she sings with the Count Basie band on a number called Harlem Sandman. It's accompanied by dancer Ruth Scott who I saw in Stormy Weather and Murder at the Vanities and by a couple of tap dancing pros named Pops (Albert Whitman) and Louie (Louis Williams). The latter two really impress with their backflips. Other African-American players include Nick Stewart-best known as Lightnin' on the TV series "Amos 'n' Andy" and who would later co-star with Ms. Dandridge on CJ-as Willie the janitor who gives inspiration to Jill and Rick for the Harlem number, Cordell Hickman-who I first saw as a kid in the last Our Gang short Tale of a Dog as Buckwheat's friend Big Shot-as someone who Jill takes over on a yard chore so he can spy on some wartime enemies, Ernest Morrison-who was an original Our Gang member with the name "Sunshine Sammy"-as the Heaven Air Pilot in the Harlem number, and The Golden Gate Quartette-who I previously saw as waiters accompanying Dick Powell and Mary Martin in the "Hit the Road to Dreamland" number of Star Spangled Rhythm and in "The General Died at Dawn" number of Hollywood Canteen-who appear in two sequences: as the kitchen help singing a love song as Jill and Rick leave Cordell's yard for some lovin' and as soldiers on a radio show performing a song with the title of "Yankee Doodle Tan". They were all pretty enjoyable. So on that note, I recommend Hit Parade of 1943. P.S. John Carroll is a native of New Orleans, a two hour drive from the city where I live in. Oh, and since I always like to cite whenever a player from my favorite movie It's a Wonderful Life appears in something else, that's Mary Treen as Carroll's secretary, Janie.