The one-reel musical short Accent on Girls (1935) shows us a street-level view from a car driving past clubs all lit up with neon, arriving at the Hutton Club where we're about to be treated to Ina Ray Hutton & Her Melodears.
Out of the car, passing through the doors, suddenly we're in the niteclub world. Chorus girl bartenders shake martinis in time to the music. Ina Ray Hutton shimmies just a little while conducting her all-girl band. It's a nice jazzy instrumental, performed for a niteclub audience which we are shown has quite a few more men than women present.
In long white sequened gown Ina Ray conducts her gals with speed & beauty, revealing why she was known as the blonde bombshell of rhythm.
The instrumental commonly called "Hutton Club Shake" (the martini shakers being a visual pun) is really "Hobo on Park Avenue" composed by Will Hudson.
It appears that Ina's band numbers one-dozen members. Finishing the opening instrumental they leap into a second piece with wondrous energy.
In fact it's so energetic that it's peculiar that the dance floor remains empty. As there's a shortage of women among the tables, perhaps those young dandies in the audience were just chary of dancing with one another while the cameras are there.
The song is Fats Waller's "Everybody's Truckin'." Ina is truckin' all over the little stage in front of the Melodears as she conducts, then suddenly bursts into the vocal:
"They had to have something new/ A dance to do up there in Harlem/ So someone started truckin'/ As soon as the news got round/ Folks downtown came up to Harlem/ Saw everybody truckin'/
"It didn't take long before the high hats were doing it/ Park Avenuing it/ All over town you see them scufflin' shufflin' truckin' along./ It spread like a forest blaze/ Became a craze thats to Harlem/ Now, everybody's truckin'."
At the instrumental break Ina Ray starts tapdancing, great moves especially considering the tight black gown requiring her to keep her knees together. What energy!
"Truckin'" is followed by a rousing instrumental of "Devil's Kitchen" with Ina in her long gown dancing & conducting back & fourth before the band. Her platinum blonde trumbonist gets a solo then the little baby butch beauty Mardell Owen gets a trumpet solo, followed by a cool piano solo.
To a jungle-beat cooked up by Lil Singer on drums. twin gals harmonizing & ooing & wahhing a number about North Africa, "She's the Topic from the Tropics." It's a nice piece of exotica jazz for the first movement, then it goes into a harmony jazz arrangement reminiscent of the Boswell Sisters, not bad for a novelty song.
The two dandies at a table are counting their fingers & wondering why they are seeing double. They're drunk & befuddled; one of them covers his right eye then his left, but still sees the singing twins but not convinced they're twins.
Throughout, ina Ray conducts while standing fairly still, so as not to detract from the twins' number. The twins shuffle off stage to a tomtom beat & the novelty number is over.
In the next number "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen," the platinum blonde trumbonist leaps to her feet for a great solo, followed by Mardell Owen's equally great trumpet solo by that tough, small, & young looking darkharied gal. There'll be an amazing piano solo, too, & what wonderful musicians all these women are. That none of Ida Ray's sidemen -- er, sidewomen -- became famous in their own right is a terrible injustice.
The joke about the twins is carried over into this number, as those gay dandies get even drunker, & still seeing double though there's only one of Ina Ray. For a moment these guys leaning lovingly toward one another. Gazing in disbelief see three Ina Rays dancing in unison. Then as they're losing conscious, they see four of Ina tapping like a chorus line.
The Melodears conducted by Ina Ray are blasting away on a fine swing instrumental, the musical short's title number Swing, Hutton, Swing (1937).
That gorgeous platinum blonde with the short flapper hairdo again has a splendid trumbone solo by I think Alyse Wells. And that same baby-butch beauty Mardell Owen follows with a trumpet solo. A girl-next-door type has a sax solo. Then saxophonist Betty Sattley stands for a solo.
The number ends & Ina introduces the Winstead Trio to sing "Bugle Call Rag." Her band backs up the trio who are two guys & a gal, the guys playing guitars.
This song had been composed as an instrumental by Billy Meyers in 1922 & the words afterward added by New Orleans saxophonist Jack Pettis. It was recorded by Cab Calloway under the alternate title "Bugle Call Blues."
This arrangement, & the vastly expanded lyrics, are unique to the Winston Trio's take on a song that has remained a standard, but which is hardly recognizable here. It's probably pretty well done & it's very lively, but Ida is such a thrilling performer that it's kind of a let-down to have her perform as back-up to a group not a tenth as impressive as she is.
Their new lyrics speak of their desire "to renew this little song" but it didn't need renewing. They brag about having "dressed it up like a brand new song" chittering the lyrics like a trio of squirrel monkeys. Their chittering does speak of the Cab Calloway version & even of a version by Ina Ray, so it has cuteness in its favor, though working in a "hi de ho" increases their dorkitude right where they tried their failingest to be hep.
Ida tended to work with very cool people. How'd she get saddled with these kiddos? Tagging along with her seems to have been the height of their success.
Fortunately Ida Ray retakes the stage for a medley of "Stardust" & "Organ Grinder's Swing." The first, although quite the chesnut even way back then, is done well enough to justify itself, but is so abreviated they might just as well not have bothered. But it does mean they're soon into "Organ Grinder's Swing" with Ida singing:
"Who's that walking down the street/ Looks like organ grinder meat/ When he push that handle down/ Music goes around & around..."
Well, the words kind of suck, & the tune itself a kidsong. But Ida adds some trademark "woe-ohs" & "wah-ahs" as she dances, & that's endearing. The band then slips back into "Stardust" to finish, the lyrics never sung for that.
The best is on it's way when Ida says, "Up from Harlem we bring you the Suzy Q." She starts shufflin' & tap-dancing on a big shiny-black tapdance stage as her lovely & talented Melodears play the instrumentation for "The Suzy Q."
Ina is wearing a black see-through pants suit, very revealing of her legs right up to the black hotpants under the gauzy black pants. In some of her dance routines she wears a tight dress, but this outfit is more liberating for tap.
She stops dancing to sing: "A new dance hits the town/ It started gettin' round/ It's something new I found/ Doin' the Suzy Q/
"It started like a flame/ It's bound to make a name/ Come dance your way to fame/ Doin' the Suzy Q/
"It's just a walk & a shuffle/ Not an off to buffalo/ It's a big improvement on the truckin' movement/ Not too fast but not too slow/
"It's johnny on the spot/ Don't forget your tootsie's hot/ Come give it all you got/ Doin' the Suzy Q." Then through the instrumental she's not doing the Suzy Q, but more great tapdancing.
When she introduces "The Melodear Swing" she notes it was written "especially for our orchestra." The number is very jazzy & most danceable, working in an unexpected solo for the guitarist, Helen Baker. The bank of saxophones are traded for a bank of clarinets, Ina's reeds once more serving double duty. It all ends quite suddenly having filled up its one-reel length.
Blonde bombshell & all-sexy girl musicians, that was Ina Ray Hutton & Her Orchestra (1943).
This one does not feature her all-girl orchestra the Melodears, but is a band of guys. One of the saxophonists, Lou Parris, became her first husband the year after this was filmed.
It's a one-reeler embracing four numbers. The Dana Suesse & Edward Heyman composition "My Silent Love" is sung by Stuart Foster while Ina conducts Stuart & the orchestra. The film will close with the entire band singing the chestnut "There Are Smiles." In between, Ina personally sings two numbers, "Knock Me a Kiss," & her hit song "Angry."
For "Knock Me a Kiss," composed by Mike Jackson & Andy Razaf, Ina stands conducting, a bit more subdued than average, then she begins the jump-jazz number's lyrics:
"I like cake, & no mistake/ But baby if you insist/ I'll cut out cake just for your sake, baby" & then the whole band shouts the line, "Mama, knock me a kiss!"
It continues: "I love pie. I hope to die!/ Just get a load of this/ When you get high, dog gone the fly, baby," then the band again: "Mama, knock me a kiss!"
Then comes the bridge & another verse, followed by a nice little electric guitar solo & a close up of the guitar amp, novel at the time.
Ina Ray conducts with a baton, still definitely subdued in comparison to when she was in front of the Melodears.
For "Angry," Ina is shown in her boudoir standing before a mirror. She sings to the portrait on her dressing table, a mild swing ballad:
"Angry. Please don't be angry/ Cuz I was only teasing you/ I wouldn't even let you think of leavin'/ Don't you know I love you true...."
As she continues the song, the portrait on her desk of a man's head & shoulders comes alive, with just his eyes following her, his gaze definitely angry.
She doesn't notice the picture is alive & continues to undress. His eyes grow round with surprise & his mouth drops open. Only then does she realize she's being watched, & turns the photograph around to face the wall (if not the mirror, in which case he can still see her getting naked).
"Angry" was written by Henry Brunies, Merritt Brunies, Jules Cassard & Dudley Mecum, the latter the lyricist. It was first published in 1925, but Ina would later make it her own, & sings it again on film in Thrills of Music: Ina Ray Hutton & Her Orchestra (1950).
For the last of the four numbers, "There are Smiles," four of the musicians stand up holding their trumbones & tin bowlers while singing as a harmony group, Ina Ray conducting them & the band.
From the guys, it's pretty much straightforward barbershop. When the four guys sit down, four others from the reed section stand up & continue the harmony.
Ina then addresses the audience to "do your stuff" & sing along with the bouncing ball. The entire band stands to sing as the lyrics provde the audience the lyrics & the ball. When they've gone through the whole number as an easy sing along, Ina Ray conducts a brief jazz fanfare, & the film is over.
Ina Ray's oddest film is more newsreel than music film. It starts out with a campaign speech by a rather creepy seeming Louisiana governor, Huey Long, Jr., destined to be assassinated in September of 1935.
The footage is sometimes titled Ina Ray Hutton Meets Huey P. Long (1935) & it was incorporated with similar sorts of footage in a documentary about the Depression, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime (1975).
After tossing his fist about ranting against unnamed rival politicans, Huey introduces Ina Ray Hutton, apparently his half-hearted campaign supporter. He takes a seat on the stage, with the Melodears arrayed along the back.
Ina holds the sheet music for a song she obviously didn't really bother to learn. It's "Every Man a King" composed by Huey P. Long & Castro Carrazo, though it's a recycled melody used by many others at political rallies. Carrazo was the Louisiana State University Bandleader. It was going to be Huey's campaign themesong if he'd lived to run for president.
Ina is not even bothering to interpret the damned song interestingly, though she did change one line for the sake of feminist balance. It originally was sung redundantly "Every man a king, Every man a king." But she sang:
"Every man a king/ Every girl a queen/ For you can be a millionaire/ But there's something belong to others/ There's enough for all people to share/ When it's sunny June and December too/ Or in the winter time or spring/ There'll be peace without end/ Every neighbor a friend/ With every man a king."
Huey then takes the handshake photo-op & tells Ina, "Thank you. I think you gotta good band."
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl