What do Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Lucille Ball, Claudette Colbert, Loretta Young, Eva Gabor and Hedy Lamarr have in common? Well, a great deal, actually … movie stars with physical beauty, talent and charm, but not necessarily good singing voices. (Side note: Rita Hayworth can be heard singing in Gilda. She could put across anything.)
For these non-singing actresses the studios used a variety of performers who would record the vocal for the featured artist, who would later mime the words during photography. Among the best was Martha Mears, who recorded vocal tracks for all of the stars noted above. Mears is sadly one of the forgotten singers of the war years and beyond. She actually appears occasionally in short subjects and features of the 1930s and ’40, and is featured in this Soundie. Here Mears appears with singer Bill Roberts, about whom I have discovered nothing.
The orchestra on soundtrack is a radio/studio band led by Victor Young, although on screen we see an assembly of female instrumentalists from a a Los Angeles–based orchestra called the Modernettes. The band is led here by Lorriane Page.
Not much happens on screen in this Soundie, which is from the first weekly release of Soundies, January 5, 1941. Both vocalists sing the song … and that’s about it. So we can focus on that song, a great standard by Eddie DeLange and Jimmy Van Heusen called “Darn That Dream.” The song was introduced in a fascinating Broadway stage played called Swingin’ the Dream, a black cast adaptation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream. Among many it featured Louis Armstrong (Bottom the Weaver), Dorothy Dandridge (a fairy), Maxine Sullivan (Titania), Dorothy McGuire (Titanis) and Butterfly McQueen (Puck)
The jazz combos of Benny Goodman and Bud Freeman were also features. Alas, the show closed in less than two weeks. “Darn That Dream” is the standout song from the production, here receiving one of its earlier performances. If a bit static, the Soundie does indicate that in many ways producers were on the right track.