9 September 2007 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Cheap skates, but plenty of ball bearings.
Here's a pleasant Vitaphone short which has the sense to dispense with any sort of plot, just giving us musical numbers. Vocalist Sylvia Froos is a minor talent: pretty to look at and pleasant of voice, though clearly no star. She warbles a samba called "Tony's Wife", then sings "Lullaby of the Leaves", a weird ballad with its hook in a minor key. Between her numbers, the musicians (Eddie Duchin's orchestra?) perform instrumental versions of a couple of tunes that Warner Brothers already owned: 'The Shadow Waltz' and 'The Gold-Diggers' Song': the latter tune is often mistakenly called 'We're in the Money'.
I was much more impressed by a novelty turn in this short, introduced by Duchin as 'Earl, Jack and Betty'. They're roller skaters ... and they're VERY good. Earl and Jack (don't ask me which is which) perform in white tie and tailcoats, while Betty wears a skimpy sequined outfit which shows off her delightfully athletic physique. I expected their turn to be the usual stuff -- the man whirls the woman in circles, and so forth -- but they pleasantly surprised me with some variations on that theme.
Unfortunately, to justify the presence of roller-skaters in this sophisticated nightclub, we get some nonsense about how ALL the employees in this nightclub wear skates: the waiters, the chef, the lot. (The wheels on the busboy, round and round.) Are those tort lawyers in the alley outside wearing skates too? We even see an insert shot alleging to show Duchin's feet, wearing skates as he works the pedals of his piano. In addition to dozens of roller skates, we get an overhead shot of Duchin's orchestra performing on a revolving platform. (I wish I'd had the ball-bearing franchise for this movie.) At least Sylvia Froos has the sense not to wear skates. We could have done without that gimmick in this otherwise entertaining short. The guy who directed this movie previously played Abraham Lincolin in 'Birth of a Nation'. My rating (for this movie, not for 'Birth of a Nation'): 7 out of 10.