RED NORVO’S SPOTLIGHT BAND on FILM

The distinguished jazz film scholar Mark Cantor offers another cinematic mystery:

“In Back Beats and Rim Shots, Warren Vache and Johnny Blowers discuss a band put together by Red Norvo, under the sponsorship of Coca Cola, for an overseas tour during World War II.  The tour never happened, but before the band broke up a film  — called THE VICTORY PARADE OF SPOTLIGHT BANDS – was made of (in Johnny’s words) “the show.”  At least one performance from this film is known to me, and I have pulled a small set of pictures of the band from this film.  Coverage is not great, and the guys are somewhat disguised by the costume hats they are wearing.  I do see Eddie Condon on rhythm guitar, and Flip Phillips is one of the saxophonists. From what Johnny said, both in an interview and in his book, Dale Pearce and Dick Taylor should be in the brass section, but you don’t get close enough to really see most of these players clearly. There are five reeds in the band, and I am almost certain that Flip Phillips is to the far right.  Hymie Schertzer and Aaron Sachs are supposedly in the section, but I am not sure where.  The rhythm section is quite possibly Ralph Burns, Eddie Condon (for certain), probably Clyde Lombardi and Johnny Blowers (again, a certainty).

Please let me know what your readers think.”

The hats, oh, those hats.  Eddie Condon looks as if he is beginning a long prison term.  

I would love to hear the soundtrack.  

I’d also like to know whatever possessed the film director to dress everyone up — although it is indeed possible that they wore period clothing as part of their “show.”

A postscript.  Eddie Condon loathed big bands and was not shy about saying so.  Phyllis Smith Condon, his wife, was a copywriter for the D’Arcy agency — and she was in charge of the Coca-Cola account.  During the war, she, Eddie, and Ernie Anderson tried to market jazz to the servicemen and women under the beverage’s sponsorship — one project that never quite materialized resulted in a late-1942 recoding session for Condonites and famous friends.  But Eddie still looks miserable under his hat.

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5 responses to “RED NORVO’S SPOTLIGHT BAND on FILM

  1. Bill Gallagher

    Goofy hats and lame outfits have always been anathema to jazz, or any legitimate endeavor for that matter. I can’t believe that Norvo went along for the ride on this one. Straw hats and red vests drove trad into pizza parlors and sullied the good name of jazz for at least a generation. The marketing people who believe that accoutrement adds depth and interest to a performance are probably the same twits who like to dress up their dog. I hope that Condon left something in his hat when that gig was over.

  2. John P. Cooper

    So where does one see this film/segment?

  3. I plan to screen this film in one of my film programs, probably early next year.

  4. John P. Cooper

    OKeh, Mark.

    Let me know when, please.

    btw – Did you ever determine the trumpet player doing “Music Makers” in that Fred MacMurray – Claudette Colbert film? It still drives me crazy.

    If not, maybe it could be posted on “Jazz Lives” here.

    Regards,
    jOhn

  5. elliott schertzer

    Yes that is Hymie Shertzer he is in a grey suit and wearing a gray derby,I would know him anywhere he was my Uncle and older brother to my dad Milton…thanks for posting this rare gem Elliott Schertzer

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