Racial integration, if not absent in Soundies, was quite rare. While there is nothing in the production papers that suggests any racial bias in production, the folks at Mills Novelty were aware of, and acquiesced to, viewers in the South. Some Southern viewers undoubtedly were upset with this short, which featured African American Roy Eldridge sharing the stage with Anita O’Day and the Gene Krupa Orchestra.
The soundtrack was recorded on December 18, 1941, with the sideline photography completed the next days. Many decades later alto sax Jimmy Migliori recalled,
“Then later—maybe a few days, a week, I don’t recall—we went out to Long Island and did the filming. The guy in charge [director Robert Snody] knew exactly what he wanted, he took charge, and we weren’t there that long. Anyway, they sat us on the set and we got to listen to our recording, and then act to it a few times before they filmed it. Anyway, that’s how I seem to remember it. But the other parts—Anita dancing with the policeman and all that [in Thanks for the Boogie Ride], I don’t know that we were around for that. I do remember the director telling us not to look at the camera, and to try our best to play along with the music, you know, breathe and move our fingers so everything fit.
“But here is the best part. The director is setting things up and someone, obviously higher up the chain of command, comes down and sees Roy in the trumpet section. So he confers with the director and then tells Gene that a colored musician can’t be with the others in the section, that he can sit with the “girl singer” in a chair next to the band. He said something like, ‘That’s okay with you, Mr. Krupa?’ Gene looks at him, looks at Roy, and says to us: ‘Pack it up, boys. Let’s get out of here.’ That’s the type of guy Gene was. Needless to say, Roy stayed up there in the trumpet section.”
As just a side note, my apology for the picture quality here. I cannot locate my “A print,” and wanted to get this out for everyone to enjoy.