It was very hard for Soundies producers to trust in the music alone to hold the attention of the viewer. Certainly, the owners of a standard jukebox understood that patrons would sometimes dance to a tune, more often allow the music to provide background noise to social chatter. But only infrequently did people stop their drinking and talking just to listen to a recording. After the novelty of Soundies wore off, the same became true of Panoram viewers. As a result, extraneous visuals were often used to “supplement” an otherwise strong musical performance. Such is the case with “Ella (Ela-E),” featuring Noro Morales and his Orchestra. Along with the fine music , and dance by the team of Nino (Anthony Iocovino) and Lenora (Elenore Bruno), we also have the drunk with the seltzer water routine.
Born Norosbaldo Morales in Puerto Rico (January 4, 1911 or 1912), Noro Morales would become one of the leading Latin bandleaders of the 1940s. Mainly active along the East Coast, Morales popularized mambo and rhumba rhythms through recordings, radio, stage appearances, and eventually film.
Morales immigrated to New York City in 1935 and his first engagements in the United States were with Alberto Socarras and Augusto Cohen. By 1937 Morales had formed his own band with brothers Humberto and Esy, billed as the Brothers Morales Orchestra.
As early as 1938 Morales was making commercial records, although it was a January 1942 recording of “Serenata Ritmica” (Rhythm Serenade) that brought him significant public attention. One can only imagine how thrilled Soundies executive were knowing that they had a series of shorts from a band that had a hit record on its hands. The sideline contract notes that Tito Puente is among the percussionists in the band, although I cannot spot him on screen.
Morales became one of the most popular Latin orchestra leaders in New York City and during the early 1940s played the famed Havana-Madrid Show, the Stork Club and Copacabana. He was active throughout the 1940s and 1950s, often rivaling the other purveyors of Latin music in terms of popularity, including Machito, Xavier Cugat, and Tito Puente.