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Published on Mar 28, 2008
After Seben Short. 1929 Paramount Famous Lasky Corp. Director: S. J. Kaufman Story: James Barton
James Barton - Emcee and Solo Dancer (in blackface) "Shorty" George Snowden - Third Male Dancer (Called "Shorty Stump" in the film)
An early sound short set in a Harlem nightclub, featuring white vaudeville comic and eccentric dancer James Barton performing in blackface. You'll see signs of the talent that earned him an Academy Award in the forties for his acting in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." Three Savoy Ballroom couples perform the latest dance styles, primarily Charleston. The last couple is Shorty Snowden and his partner. They are just terrific, although their style clearly looks dated to us.
Note how Snowden introduces Breakaway steps, to the closed-form Charleston and you'll feel like you are witnessing the birth of the Lindy Hop, which, in fact, was the name that Snowden gave to the dance he was doing. The couple exit exuberantly with a Cake Walk.
Music by the Savoy Ballroom house band, Chick Webb and his Orchestra.
This historically important short is included in an excellent compilation of 20's and early 30's filmclips, At the Jazz Band Ball, which you can order thru SavoyStyle. There are also short excerpts in PBS:Dancing, New Worlds, New Forms, and in the National Geographic Explorer: Jitterbug, a TV special not available in video and Watch Me Move, another PBS documentary which is not issued in video.