The careers of Swing bandleader Benny Goodman, bebop master Tadd Dameron, and composer / professional eccentric Henry Nemo did not intersect often. Benny recorded tunes by Nemo (“‘Tis Autumn”), and he had arrangements by Dameron (largely unplayed) in his book when he took a band to Russia in 1962. The connection between Dameron and “The Neem,” as Nemo was known in the 1930s and ‘40s, is more tenuous, although I have a note than Dameron might have arranged Nemo’s “Don’t Take Your Love From Me” for Andy Kirk’s orchestra.
One other important connection is found in the person of Kay Penton, a fine vocalist who sang (and recorded) with both Benny and Tadd, and appears in a Soundie, along with Nemo.
“Hip Hip Hooray” was a product of cut-rate L.O.L. Productions, which made 39 Soundies during the recording ban and war years. Along with their shoddy production values, they are known for a racial insensitivity which resulted in the cancellation of their contract with the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America. A law suit ended up in the New York Supreme Court, and was found in favor of L.O.L.
Henry Nemo was a house composer for L.O.L. in 1943. When I hosted him for a film night many years ago, he recalled next to nothing about his involvement in Soundies. In a conversation that includes more profanity that used by a drunk sailor, he did comment on Kay Penton’s figure. Beyond that, he sincerely enjoyed the films. (An interview with The Neem will be found in the upcoming Soundies history.)
Back to the Soundie at hand: “Hip Hip Hooray” is a better than average patriotic wartime pop tune by Nemo. Penton does a great job on the soundtrack and on screen; Nemo is just barely under control, and he does little to sync his voice with the soundtrack, although he adds a great deal to the energy level. Watch how he silently mouths his lyrics as Penton performs them on screen.
The band accompanying Penton and Nemo is a non-union combo, required because of the musicians’ strike, and it provides a thoroughly professional backing for this surprisingly fine subject from L.O.L.