Hi De Ho / The Duke is Tops
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Paired together for the first time, these two features take advantage of the performing talents of Lean Horne and Cab Calloway plus great songs and swing bands!
Also included on this DVD is NEWSREEL which is in black & White and is not rated and running time is 5:47 minutes
Also included on this DVD is CARTOON TROLLEY AHOY (1936) featuring the Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang, Powerful Katrinka and Skipper. This runs for about 7.33 minutes and is in black & white and is not rated.
This double feature of all-black musicals includes:
HI DE HO (1947) - The legendary Cab Calloway stars in this musical about a band leader caught between two women and under pressure to take his band to a gangster-run establishment.
THE DUKE IS TOPS (1938) - Riding on the updraft of her successes in Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, a very young Lena Horne makes her feature film debut in this all-black production as a singing sensation whose manager--in an unusual plot twist for the era--sacrifices his ambition for her sake. See individual titles for details.
Top Customer Reviews
The fist film, "Hi De Ho", Cab Calloway plays himself in a very poor vehicle about the rise to fame of a bandleader. Grade Z acting is the order of the day in this one, but the real reason to watch is Cab's music. There's also a great tap dance routine in the finale. Although he plays "himself", Cab gets involved in a gunfight and even smacks his girl around! Certainly an odd proceeding for the bandleader.
"The Duke is Tops" is much better, and better produced. Lena Horne makes her film debut in this story about a show producer who feels he is standing in Lena's way. He loves Lena so much he steps aside so she can have her shot at stardom while he fades into obscurity, eventually working with a travelling medicine show. This film is the more enjoyable of the two.
Included with the two movies is a color cartoon from the forgotten Van Beuren Studios, featuring "Mr. Bang", a perpetually angry and argumentative character, and a foreign woman named Katrinka with superhuman strength. Van Beuren Studios went belly up in 1936, having failed to create any lasting characters of note. A strange, but somewhat useful inclusion on this disc for the film student.
There's also a newsreel with footage of Hitler, the Hindenburg disaster, and Joe Louis preparing for a fight.
The disc is an interesting slice of 1930's black cinema, which no student of film history should pass up. Of course, Cab and Lena's music are the real prize for the collector.
But I digress. "Hi De Ho" is a vehicle for Cab Calloway. Some really great music and comedy, including the legendary Dusty Fletcher in his classic "Open the Door Richard" routine that was as popular among Blacks as "Who's On First" was to whites. Cab also does an excellent "St. James Infirmary" and the scenes of him jamming with his band in his apartment are fun to watch. But the scenes were Cab slaps around Jeni Le Gon (Andy 's girlfriend on the Amos and Andy Show) and barks orders at her are major turn-offs to the modern viewer.
"The Duke Is Tops" has even less to recommend it. Ralph Cooper (best remembered as the MC at the Apollo Theater) plays Duke, the love interest of a young Lena Horne. Mighty humdrum stuff, except for the pioneering rap and doo-wop group the Cats and the Fiddle cavorting and clowing on their jazz/r&b classic "Killing Jive" (listen carefully to the lyrics, it's a coded tune about marijuana smoking). This one scene is usually considered by those who have seen it to be the highlight of the picture.
But music aside, these films are mainly for historic interest as a look at pre-Superfly and Spike Lee African-American cinema.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Somewhat interesting but very low production standards took away any notion of quality.Published 3 months ago by BFC
Both of the movies on this DVD appear to be classic black cinema. That is, films made for black audiences of the '30s. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Rose M.
I felt it was good to see the performers. Didn't expect much of the acting since black subjects never have gotten and often still do not receive the kind of funding needed to... Read morePublished on September 6, 2013 by Gayle Lynch