Soundies and the Changing Image of Black Americans on Screen: One Dime at a Time

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Indiana University Press
Publish Date
5.9 X 8.9 X 0.9 inches | 1.3 pounds

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About the Author

Susan Delson is author of Dudley Murphy, Hollywood Wild Card and editor of Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals. Her writings on art and culture appear in the Wall Street Journal and other publications. She is an arts journalist and film historian based in New York City.


Essential. In this comprehensive work, Delson locates soundies within cinema history. The book provides a fascinating exploration of performers, musicians, and filmmakers who contributed to these productions. Most revealing is Delson's assessment that soundies created images "that boldly contradicted Hollywood's usual depictions of Black people, in images of success, competence, and style" (p. 5)--a direct contrast to studio productions. According to Delson, soundies were historically significant because they impacted the social and cultural fabric of a racially divided America; they played a role in advancing the country's racial politics even when the country seemed reluctant to do so. This definitive study includes rarely seen photos and lists of performers, filmmakers, and titles. A fascinating resource for those interested in film, jazz, performance, WW II, race, Black film history, and socio-cultural history broadly.

--C. B. Regester, Univ. of North Carolina--Chapel Hill "Choice"