The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Music

Senator Demands Probe of Lewd 'Soundies'

  Oct. 21, 1941, Soundies  

July 2, 1941: Sam Coslow announces a deal with Mills Novelty Co. to produce 208 "soundies"  and plans to make 20 of them in the next month, directed by Josef Berne. The acts include Gale Page, Martha Tilton, Cliff Nazarro, Buddy Rogers and his orchestra, Mary Healy, the King's Men, Benny Rubin, Johnny Downs and the Duncan Sisters, The Times says.

Oct. 21, 1941: Sen. Burton K. Wheeler (D-Mont.) denounces soundies, saying that some of the films are "lewd and lascivious."

"I hope these pictures are not going to be shown in the camps to the soldier boys," Wheeler said. "Many of these young boys are now being subject to enough temptations in some of these camps as it is."


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Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood, June 1, 1941

  June 1, 1941, Iraq Conquered by British Troops  

  image June 1, 1941, Streetcar  
  June 1, 1941, Streetcar
June 1, 1941, Streetcar


June 1, 1941: LONDON, May 31. (AP)-- German airmen who went belatedly to Iraq to bolster the Axis-inspired war against Britain were reported fleeing the country tonight as Iraqi resistance collapsed. British imperial advance forces entered the disorderly capital of Bagdad.

Lee Shippey says the  argument in the Seymour house always begins in May: Should we turn off the furnace? 

Probably you've seen some of the new jukebox "soundies" and formed your own opinion of them. I've just previewed 24 at one sitting, all produced by composer Sam Coslow, and I'm convinced that big movie moguls, instead of regarding them with contempt, should give them special attention, Jimmie Fidler says.
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Found on EBay – Frank Sinatra

Finian's Rainbow, cartoon A 33 rpm album of the audio from an uncompleted animated feature of “Finian’s Rainbow,” featuring Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, has been listed on EBay.

According to The Times’ clips, this project was begun by Maurice Binder (d. 1991) about 1954 but apparently went on hiatus about August 1955. Binder was later known for his movie titles, done with Saul Bass. This item is listed as “Buy It Now” for $49.95. As with anything on EBay, an item and vendor should be evaluated thoroughly before submitting a bid.

Spade Cooley: 'I'm not sure, but I think Ella Mae is dead'

  Spade Cooley, Oct. 19, 1949  
  Los Angeles Times file photo  

Oct. 15, 1949: Spade Cooley and his daughter Melody pose for a publicity photo aboard his yacht.

  April 5, 1961, Spade Cooley  

April 5, 1961: In a switch from its usual policy of keeping lurid killings off the front page, The Times puts the Spade Cooley story on Page 1 (below the fold).  
John, his son from a previous marriage, said: "Dad and mother had not been getting along for weeks. I don't think there was, but Dad had a fixation there was someone else. Dad has a violent temper. But he never beat me. He wouldn't try to take me on. And, as far as I know, he never harmed Melody or Donny.

"He can't be sane to have done a thing like this, can he? Do you know how she died? It was terrible, wasn't it? He just doesn't stand a ghost of a chance."

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Spade Cooley Held in Wife's Death

  April 4, 1961, Mirror Cover  

  Spade Cooley, Sept. 6, 1954  
  Los Angeles Times file photo  

April 4, 1961: Western music star Donnell “Spade” Cooley is accused of killing his estranged wife, Ella Mae,  in a jealous rage after listening to tape recordings of her phone conversations about what the defense would call “a free love cult.”

I have not had much exposure to the Cooley case, which occurred in Kern County, except that James Ellroy used to talk about it all the time and it is certainly one of the notorious killings of the early 1960s.

The details of the killing are particularly gruesome and part of it was witnessed by the Cooley’s teenage daughter, Melody, so I’m a little reluctant to dredge up all the gory details. A purported affair with Roy Rogers (yes, that Roy Rogers) — which he and others denied -- was also dragged into the courtroom.

It is a nasty, lurid case. 

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From the Vaults -- 'Vamonos Con Pancho Villa!'


“Vamonos Con Pancho Villa!” (“Let’s Go With Pancho Villa!”) is the surprisingly dark, roughly hewn story of six friends who call themselves “the lions of San Pablo” and join the Mexican Revolution as much for the adventure as the idealism. “Vamonos” is a study in the progression from loyalty to blind obedience and from courage to being tragically foolhardy.

Vamonos Con Pancho Villa The 1936 Mexican film was directed by Fernando de Fuentes from a novel by Rafael F. Muñoz and portrays Villa as a ruthless, cold-blooded killer who nonetheless is adored by his thousands of rag-tag troops. “Vamonos” is a bleak film of increasingly senseless violence and the alternative ending included on the DVD raises the bloodshed to the impossibly surreal.

(At right, writer Rafael F. Muñoz plays Martín Espinosa, who is shot to death while lighting bombs and throwing them at a fort.) 

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Found on EBay -- Rube Wolf

Rube Wolf Poster This poster from the 1935 showing of “The President Vanishes” at the Paramount Theatre has been listed on EBay. Fans of vintage typography (you know who you are) this is for you!

Bidding starts at $400, which is too rich for my blood. As with everything listed on EBay, an item and vendor should be evaluated thoroughly before submitting a bid.


Rube Wolf on the Daily Mirror

Rube Wolf inside the half-demolished Paramount Theatre

Conductor's Remarks on L.A.'s Music Touch off Sound and Fury

  Feb. 24, 1941, Beecham  

  Feb. 27, 1941, Beecham  

Feb. 24-March 4, 1941: British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham comes to town to conduct two programs by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and my doesn’t he get people furious with his comments about classical music in the U.S. generally and especially in Los Angeles.

The women’s committee of the Los Angeles Philharmonic had never been so insulted! The “ladies” actually hissed Sir Thomas’ comments on politics, such as the proposed Lend-Lease program, which he said wouldn't make "tuppence of difference." 

The Times barely covered his luncheon speech at the Biltmore but wrote to great length on the furor it caused when he noted that Los Angeles rarely performed choral music and had no opera company, no opera house or symphony hall. (Recall that in his era, the orchestra performed at Philharmonic Auditorium and visiting companies performed operas at Shrine Auditorium).

Unfortunately for the music historian, it is difficult to discern the actual caliber of the performance from Isabel Morse Jones’ review.

This is what passed for music criticism at The Times in the pre-Martin Bernheimer era: "His conducting is photogenic to a degree that it should be called to the attention of Walt Disney. His back may not be as effective as Stokowski's but his heel and toe work and especially his arm gyrations tell a music story that is fascinating to watch." But she duly recorded when the audience applauded and was otherwise moved – the music critic as applause meter. 
The Philharmonic performed Beecham's suite from Handel's "The Faithful Shepherd," Frederick Delius' "Summer Night on the River," Mozart's Symphony No. 36 and Sibelius' Symphony No. 1.

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Grammys Hit a New Low in Conservatism

  Feb. 22, 1981, Grammys  

  Feb. 22, 1981, Grammys  

Feb. 22, 1981: “The nominees this year represent a new low in Grammy conservatism,” Robert Hilburn says. "The gap in attitude between NARAS members -- the people who are in the business of making music -- and critics, who spend their time thinking about and responding to music, is conveniently underscored in the Village Voice's annual poll of the nation's leading pop and rock critics.

The results of the Village Voice best album poll:

1. The Clash, "London Calling"
2. Bruce Springsteen's "The River"
3. Talking Heads "Remain in Light"
4. "Pretenders"
5. Public Image, Ltd's "Second Edition"
6. Captain Beefheart's "Doc at the Radar Station"
7. Elvis Costello's "Get Happy!!"
8. Stevie Wonder's "Hotter Than July"
9. Prince's "Dirty Mind"
10. Gang of Four's "Entertainment"


Rock Shuts Out Disco at Grammys

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On the Frontiers of Ethnomusicology

  Feb. 11, 1911, Flute  

  Feb. 11, 1911, Flute  

Feb. 11, 1911: Among the items at the Southwest Museum is a flute, made of a human bone, that was discovered while excavating Native American graves on Santa Catalina Island.  The flute was something of a rarity, The Times said, because it had six finger holes rather than three.

The museum asked various musicians to try playing the flute, but none was successful. Museum curator Hector Alliot (d. 1919) decided that "as the flute had been played by a people whose minds were as children's compared with the minds of the modern man, he would find the person to make the flute speak among the children."

Clifford Elliott Martindale was able to make a sound on the flute. “Suddenly a long, weird sound like a wail arose throughout the museum. It hung and quavered and then died away as Martindale gasped for more breath," The Times said. 

[No matter how many years I have spent looking at old newspapers, I am still amazed at some of the complete rubbish that was presented as scientific inquiry, particularly in the field of anthropology and archeology—lrh].
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Matt Weinstock, Jan. 27, 1961

  Jan. 27, 1961, Comics  

Jan. 27, 1961: Matt Weinstock has an item about folk music featuring singer Joyce James and guitarist Bill Fernandez. One of their songs is David Arkin’s “The Klan,” about a cross burning in East L.A.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MURIEL AND FAYE: Try Alaska. The men are plentiful and the nights are long.
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Teena Marie, 1956 -- 2010: 'I wish I was colorless'

  Oct. 19, 1980, Teena Marie

Oct. 19, 1980, Teena Marie

Oct. 19, 1980: Some people refuse to believe that Teena Marie is white, Dennis Hunt writes. "I tell them I'm white but they think I'm black and I'm trying to pass for white.... This is white skin. I'm not trying to fool anybody."

She also said: "I'm a different kind of person. Blacks and whites don't really react in any special way to me. I don't get anything negative from blacks and not really anything negative from whites now. But I will say it was different before I started getting some popularity. I don't think it was prejudice from whites as much as ignorance of something they didn't know much about. You know, I wish I was colorless sometimes."

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