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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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CAB CALLOWAY

Hi-De-Ho

Storyville Films 26053

 

 

 

 

 

This DVD may be confusing as, according to the sleeve-note, Cab Calloway made two films called Hi-De-Ho. This one is the later film, from 1947, when the band included such artists as saxists Hilton Jefferson and Sam "The Man" Taylor, as well as long-term Calloway bassist Milt Hinton. The film includes numerous shots of Cab's band, although - as in most films of the period - it looks as if they are doing a lot of miming.

The film is a game of two halves. The first part has what the sleeve-note calls a "tissue-thin plot" concerning Calloway's disgruntled girlfriend and the competition between two clubs to feature Cab's band. This ends in an unconvincing shoot-out, in which Calloway's girl is killed. The action is not noted for political correctness, as there are scenes of men (including Cab) hitting women and treating them without respect.

After this flimsy story, the action switches without explanation to a New York club where the band leads a variety show which includes singers and dancers, as well as several band numbers. The value of these is mainly in showing what a dynamic performer Calloway was: singing, dancing and scatting (whence his nickname of "The Hi-De-Ho Man"). He throws himself into every song with gusto and conducts the band with a baton so long that it looks as if he may poke somebody in the eye. He also overacts shamelessly in performing St James Infirmary but its very liveliness makes this one of the highspots of the film.

Jazz fans may enjoy watching Cab in action and they may even spot some famous faces in the band, since the Calloway organisation was famous for nurturing the careers of many jazzmen. But musically the film is unsatisfying because of the obvious miming. It is primarily interesting in illustrating why Cab Calloway's band was so popular - because of the brilliance of some of its arrangements and soloists, and because its leader was a first-class entertainer.

Tony Augarde



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