As I approach the veteran age of seventy-four, I realize that I have never been to a fashion show. Even the concept seems a bit strange and off-kilter to me, something confined to the uber-rich on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or the clothes-conscious upper class of Paris. This is, of course, an enormous generalization, but it is one that somehow resonates with me.
In the 1930s and 1940s, however, the “fashions of the day” were a more prominent part of pop culture. How the upper crust dressed was viewed from afar by the hoi polloi as a matter of interest, and not necessarily with any derision or resentment involved. In film and music there were fashion-oriented short subjects; musical shorts and feature films built around clothing styles; songs referring to what people were wearing … and, of course, there were fashion shows.
For a Soundies producer a fashion show was a natural subject for a film musical short. The showgirls in various dress styles would appeal to males and females, urban and rural viewers and people of all ages. The presentation on a simple set could be filmed easily, and the musical talent was secondary to the youthful models and their couture. There were many such Soundies, and Fancy To You represents this aspect of the Soundies output perfectly.
James (Jimmy) Alexander—sometimes billed as “Jimmie Alexandre”—was a West Coast singer and actor who moved from the variety theater to musical comedy, from radio to the silver screen. He was never able to break through as a headliner and is perhaps best known for his role of the Prince in Abbott and Costello’s Jack and the Beanstalk (1952). Alexander performed on television throughout the 1950s and died in 1961 at the early age of 46. Fashion model Jane Starr is a different actress than the one who appears in a handful of silent films during the 1920s. This performer was a Los Angeles nightclub performer who also made a handful of feature film appearances during the mid-1940s, then disappeared from the entertainment scene. Five showgirls, all unidentified, share fashions from 1870, 1940 and 1943. They conclude on a patriotic note, now dressed as members of the armed services.
Produced by Glamourettes during the recording ban, the pre-recorded soundtrack was licensed from Sam Fox Publishers, with Alexander recording his vocal over the recording in April 1943.