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Behind the Glamour: 1940s Hollywood

February 2, 2023

By Irene Martinko

In The Swingaroos: Hollywood Serenade, The Swingaroos put their own swingin’ twist on songs from some of the top movies of the ’30s and ’40s. Scroll down to learn a little more about the movies that introduced audiences to songs like “At Last,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and “Hooray for Hollywood.”

Hollywood Hotel – 1937

Hollywood Hotel made history by featuring the Benny Goodman Quartet performing “I’ve Got a Heartful of Music.” This was the first time a racially-mixed band was shown onscreen in a movie. The white musicians, Benny Goodman on the clarinet and Gene Krupa on the drums, played alongside black musicians, Ted Wilson on the piano and Lionel Hampton on the vibraphone, making beautiful and historic swing music. Bette Davis was originally cast in the movie as a wise-cracking character named Jonesy, but she refused the part because she believed it was too trivial for an Oscar-winning actress of her caliber. This movie was also Ronald Reagan’s second film appearance. Though uncredited, he played a radio host at a film premiere.

Stormy Weather – 1943

In this film, starring and based on the life of the legendary dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the audience is dazzled by practically nonstop music and dance. In fact, even though the film is only 78 minutes long, it still manages to fit some 20 musical numbers into the story. And did you know that his love interest in the film, Lena Horne, was actually 39 years younger than he was?

Thousands Cheer – 1943

Having dazzled audiences in Technicolor in The Wizard of Oz in 1939, Judy Garland remained black and white for a few more years following her trip to Oz. It wasn’t until the release of the 1943 film Thousands Cheer that Garland was once again seen in color on the big screen. She was featured in this film as herself and sang the upbeat number “The Joint is Really Jumpin’ Down in Carnegie Hall” to the delight of movie buffs across the country.

The Swingaroos: Hollywood Serenade played in FST’s Court Cabaret from July 23 - August 30, 2019.