Symphony in Black

A Rhapsody of Negro Life
10 mins., black & white, 16mm. FAB 6260
Paramount Pictures, 1935.
Director: Fred Waller;
Photography: William Steiner, Jr.
Valburn/Ellington Collection of the Library of Congress

This film of extraordinary historic and esthetic interest features Duke Ellington at the piano presumably composing the title symphony, crosscut with shots of a band playing the music. Includes the numbers “Jealousy”, and the four parts of the composition in order: “The Laborers”, “A Triangle (Dance, Jealousy and Blues)”, “A Hymn of Sorrow” and “Harlem Rhythm”. In the second part an uncredited 18-year old Billie Holliday sings the blues while watching a couple dancing Lindy Hop in silhouette behind a window shade. Dancers are unknown. Also on the film is the eccentric dancer (that’s a style, not an opinion) Earl “Snakehips” Tucker demonstrating his gifts in an appropriately surrealistic film sequence. Not to be missed.

This content was originally written by Judy Pritchett with Frank Manning. Copyright, 1995, 1996, 1997 for the It may not be reproduced without written permission. Please use the contact form on this website to get in touch. This Biography is also part of the World Lindy Hop Federation Archives maintained by Keith Hughes.

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