Xerox and Kleenex, products of individual manufacturers, have come to represent the generic product per se. Likewise, to many the term Soundie has come to represent any short musical film, regardless of source, from the 1930's, 1940's or 1950's. In reality, however, the term Soundie refers solely and specifically to 3-minute films shared on a "audiovisual jukebox" called the Panoram, films released between January 1941 and March 1947.
During their extensive production "run" a full 1,889 soundies were released to those who had purchased a Panoram machine for his/her restaurant, hotel, bar, recreation center, etc. Add to this number the jukebox shorts made by the producers of other presentation systems and the number of shorts is well over 2,000!
The importance of the Soundiesand other juke box shorts cannot be overestimated since they represent the truest and most complete audiovisual picture available of popular music in the 1940's. The soundies producers, needing to respond and appeal to the widest of possible audiences, presented shorts reflecting an enormous variety of musical styles. Among the many genres represented in the soundies catalog are "popular artists" (recording, radio, film, Broadway); Swing and big band; African-American and Latin-American music; Irish, Hawaiian, and Russian music; country-western, hillbilly, Western-Swing; polka; harmonica bands; choral and vocal harmony groups; dance (including tap, Lindy Hop, jitterbug, ballroom, waltz, etc.); songwriters and "song stories"; vaudeville and variety artists; cartoons; "sports reels"; "hokum" and comedy routines. In fact, the variety available on soundies far surpasses that of today's MTV!
This portion of the jazz-on-film web site will be dedicated to these elusive films!
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