Though he would go on to work with other composers (and have his songs be nominated for the best original song Oscar nine times), Mack Gordon spent the 1930s paired with English pianist and composer Harry Revel. The duo were very successful indeed, penning a string of popular songs that included “Underneath the Harlem Moon,” “College Rhythm,” and our personal favorite Gordon-Revel tune, “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?”
This Snapshot in Prose captures the pair in 1934, at the height of their shared success. Read to the end of the piece, and you’ll find some of our favorite renditions of a few Gordon-Revel compositions.
For those who think outrage over lyrics and rhythms in popular music began with those decrying gangsta rap, with Tipper Gore‘s penchant for warning stickers, or even those fuddy-duddies who were outraged by the onstage antics of Elvis Presley and other rockers in the 1950s, what follows may come be an eye-opener For, while Snapshot in Prose usually profiles a popular Cladrite Radio performer at a particular point in his or her career, this week, we’re sharing a 1934 essay from Popular Songs magazine bemoaning the intrusion into the popular music and radio broadcasts of the day by would-be moral arbiters armed with newly sharpened censor’s scissors.
It’s interesting to note that the article mentions the “purification” of movies, too, given that 1934 was the year that Breen Production Code began to be strictly enforced by Will Hayes and his associates.
We have some big news for you, straight from Cladrite Industries’ central office in the heart of New York City:
It’s with great pleasure that we announce that Cladrite Radio will now be featuring performances taken from rare Vitaphone shorts, via recordings generously provided by one of the driving forces behind the Vitaphone Project, Ron Hutchinson, corresponding secretary and editor of the organization’s newsletter, The Vitaphone News.
That’s right, listeners of Cladrite Radio will be able to enjoy recordings that date back eighty years and more and are not commercially available anywhere, including performances by such Cladrite favorites as Rudy Vallée, Ben Bernie and His Orchestra, Horace Heidt and His Calfornians, and Abe Lyman and His Band, just to name a few.
What are Vitaphone shorts and The Vitaphone Project?
Well, here’s a snippet from a 1926 short featuring an act called Witt & Berg (note: the restored shorts are much clearer than this online sample):
And here are a couple of the songs we’ll be featuring in our first batch Vitaphone recordings:
Anyone with a casual interest in classic movies knows that The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson, is considered the first “talkie” feature motion picture (even though that picture is arguably a silent movie with sound segments). (Incidentally, the recent three-disc DVD reissue of The Jazz Singer includes a disc that features several Vitaphone shorts.)
The same process used to create the sound for that ground-breaking picture was also used in literally hundreds of short subjects, dating back a year earlier to 1926.
The Vitaphone process depended on the use of a separate 16-inch record that was synchronized with the film, as opposed to the later practice of imprinting the sound on the edge of the film itself.
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