BOARDING HOUSE BLUES
Dir. Josh Binney, released 1948 by All-American News
featuring Dusty Fletcher, Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Lucky Millinder, Bullmoose Jackson, Una Mae Carlisle, etc.
classic 1940s Black vaudeville routines and musical acts
Forget the “plot” (the old standby where broke folks have a house party to raise the money to keep from being evicted)–it’s just contrived to string together various classic vaudeville routines and exciting musical numbers from late-swing/early R&B Black performers of the 1940s. If you enjoyed Killer Diller (made by the same people as this one, and also featuring Dusty Fletcher and Moms Mabley), you’ll want to see this one too. It offers a rare opportunity to see African-American vaudeville routines that were probably old in the 1920s, now performed in the waning days of vaudeville. Dusty Fletcher, best known for his smash hit “open the door, richard,” is a wonderful physical comedian (here accompanied by some acrobatic person in an ape suit!), and ANY opportunity to see the legendary Moms Mabley should be taken advantage of. The musical performances by Anisteen Allen, Una Mae Carlisle, and Bullmoose Jackson are wonderful, and it’s great to see bandleader Lucky Millinder as compere. Millinder’s band was as commercially successful in live performance as the Ellington or Basie bands in the late 30’s and 40’s, but since their records have not had the staying power of DE or CB, we don’t hear much about him, and surely it was his “act” that helped keep the band on top—-nice to get a taste of that presence here! There’s also some off-the-wall “novelty acts” worked into the show, including the one-legged dancer “Crip” Heard. The emphasis here is on the acts you’re watching, NOT on the filmmaking. All in all, this is a pleasant way to kill 90 minutes and also gives us a window into a form of entertainment long gone–classic African-American vaudeville. Thanks to the makers of this film for documenting these entertaining and vibrant acts for future generations to enjoy and marvel at! This was distributed by All-American News, the company that made African-American oriented newsreels, a number of which have surfaced in recent years and are a goldmine of 1940’s Black culture.