Dick Winslow with the Music Maids star in The Song of the Islands (1940), one of the first seven soundies ever filmed.
It represented a "corner" of the musical world that soundies intended to represent very well over the next six years, i.e., songs of Hawaii & the South Seas, sometimes authentic Hawaiian swing.
Furthermore, with the soundies' parallel interest in populating the soundies with beautiful babes, this fascinating genre came ready-made with hula dancers.
Winslow was a successful actor as well as bandleader. As the camera pans across the orchestra, Dick comes into view with a flower leigh around his neck as he conducts, so we know it's a Hawaiian theme or setting.
The Music Maids were a five-woman harmony group. They're all beauties & they too are wearing leighs. The violins swell & the girls begin singing: "Hawaiian isles are beauties/ Where skies are blue/ When love is true," & so on, a bit insipid & touristy but not void of appeal.
The scene then cuts to a jungle setting where Lilly Padeken & Delphine Kelli lead a troup of hula dancers. A hula boy leads one of the girls away for a sexy hula together -- they're not often seen, these hula boys. She then decorates him with flowers & they embrace as the instrumental break ends & we're back in the club for the close of the number.
Seated in a cafe with a couple of gals, two fresh sailors take slaps in the face before the gals walk out.
So begins Heaven Help a Sailor (1941) in which the novelty song "Heaven Help a Sailor on a Night Like This" is performed by a scruffy sailor who wants to give the slapped sailors a lesson in life by spinning (& singing) a tall tale.
Jump-cutting from the sailor bar to the high seas, stock footage is mixed with new to create the visual narration of a ship gone down in a storm & one castaway sailor happy on a South Seas island which has no men but only maidens.
As guys keep singing the tune on the soundtrack, we see the lusty adventures of the island maidens as they pursue & molest the grizzled castaway. Eventually the old sailor has to escape the oversexed maidens to save his own life. "What can I do? I'm only a gob/ They've got to have a Sultan here on the job."
Ridiculous but amusing, the drinking song was written by Joe Burke, Al Dubin, & William Raskin. The island girls were credited as "The Seven Sarongs." Given how they only run around & don't dance or sing or show any talent for anything but being pretty, it would appear that giving them a dance troupe credit was just a descriptive jest, & no such troupe existed outside this soundie.
The geezer playing "Dan Magee" the hero of the song isn't credited at all, but the music is being played by Jack Silkhert & His Orchestra, &mp maybe the sailor is one of the members of that inconsequential band .
The song was introduced in the film Sensation Hunters (1933) wherein it was sung & danced by Arline Judge accompanied by a chorus.
Lani McIntyre & His Orchestra (aka, & His Aloha Islanders; or, & His Hawaiians) made several soundies in 1943, including Paradise Isles. Steel guitarist Sam Koki provided the signature "island" sound for Hawaiian swing. Lani McIntyre can be seen behind Koki with a regular guitar.
The band performs while four hula girls, the Aloha Maids, move in time with one another. The song was written by Sam Koki with assistance from Lani McIntyre & Hapo Tuiteleleapaga, who were sometimes billed as the Aloha Trio.
"Paradise Isle" became the Lani McIntyre Orchestra's signature song, though their international hit was "Leilani."
Lyrics romanticising the "Paradise Isle/ The tropical style" are sung almost in falsetto as the hula dancers sway, then a lovely slide guitar instrumental break raises the level of the number from adorable hokum for tourists to pleasing musicality.
Cutting back & forth between band & hula girls, the lyric is taken up anew by the high voices of the three instrumentalists who can also sing:
"The rolling surf seems to beat out of tune/ A place for love underneath the moon/ Come with me to my land of smiles/ My paradise isle."
There is a "poverty row" film of romance & adventure, about a blind man (Warren Hull) marooned on a South Seas island, with special encounters with a native girl ("Movita").
It's called Paradise Isle: A Romance of the South Seas (1937), reissued as Siren of the South Seas. The native girl falls for the blind castaway, breaking her native boyfriend's heart. How he regains his sight to become a South Seas painter living happily ever after becomes the focus of the simple tale.
It included Lani McIntyre & His Hawaiians' "Paradise Isle" & "Hawaiian Chant," with plenty of incidental music on the soundtrack dominated by Sam Koki's slide guitar.
Though a minor film, it is surprisingly beautiful, packed with footage of actual South Seas people in days of straw huts, exceedingly paradise-like, shot in Samoa. It can sometimes feel spoilt by the presence of the western guys & the scripts unintentional chauvinism approaching racism.
But the fun outweighs the attitudes of the era, & Movita is stunning to see in a starring role, & manages a certain decorative dignity despite having been provided with the most abominable dialogue like "We have many coconut here."
She is best remembered as the Tahitian beauty in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), & as the second wife of Marlon Brando, until he replaced her with another exotic beauty, one who ironically played pretty much what had formerly been Movita's role, in the 1962 remake of Bounty.
Though convincing as a Polynesian maiden, she wasn't one. Her real name was Maria Castaneda & she was Mexican American, so also appeared in a number of westerns.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl