As I mentioned in my last post, I love to fill requests. While I try to find a workaround for the Fats Waller Soundie spuriously claimed by Ghana television (!), we move onto a request for a Soundie by 1930s film star Wini Shaw.

Born Winifred Lei Momi in 1909, Wini Shaw was of Hawaiian heritage, although some have mistakenly assumed Mexican descent, based on her film performance of the Latin- tinged hit “The Lady in Red.” Shaw began her career on the vaudeville stage, first as a member of a family act and then as a solo singer and dancer. Throughout the 1920s she appeared on the variety stage, leading to a headline role in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931. During the early 1930s she was heard frequently on radio, including the very popular Rudy Vallee Show.

Shaw traveled west and found a home in the film industry. Between 1934 and 1939 she appeared in more than thirty shorts and features.  Shaw is perhaps best known for her renditions of “Lullaby of Broadway” in Gold Diggers of 1935 and “The Lady in Red” from In Caliente (1935). Shaw left Hollywood in 1939 and spent the war years entertaining the troops in USO shows headlined by Jack Benny and Ed Wynn. Following the war, Shaw returned to radio and the variety stage, starring in nightclub revues in Manhattan, Boston, and upstate New York. She retired from show business in 1955.

While the publicity department was thrilled to have Shaw making films, the top Soundies brass were less impressed. An interoffice memo, not meant for our eyes, reads: “Wini Shaw must be a dancer—she certainly can’t sing. Will probably be censored in certain areas because of the visibility of the navel in one or two of the dancers, and the excessive hip movement.”

“Jose O’Neill – The Cuban Heel” was written by Jack Scholl and M.K. Jerome. These two Warner Bros. songwriters wo wrote the song for Shaw to sing in “Melody for Two, a 1937 featuring staring James Melton and future Soundie performer Patricia Ellis. Sideline extra Joseph Vitale plays the part of Jose4 O’Neill, and the New York-based chorus line dancers are billed as “The Visionettes.”

Wini Shaw was a far better performer than the Soundies execs were able to admit. Sadly, the four Soundies from 1941 are her final screen appearances.