While our offering here is not a Soundie per se, it is definitely a part of the audiovisual jukebox story.

The last reel of Soundies was sent to Panoram owners for release on March 10, 1947, after which the entire operation shut down. While the cause of the failure is discussed in the upcoming Soundies filmography, one was the lack of selectivity: you watched whatever was next on the reel.

This problem was addressed and solved roughly ten years later with the next iteration of the audiovisual jukebox, the Scopitone. Designed and popularized in Italy, the machine spread through Europe, and finally reached the United States in the early 1960s. I saw one, and was absolutely transfixed by it, at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo sometime around 1964.

The story of Scopitones is one that deserved a complete and detailed history, one that will be written by someone other than me. Trust me on that! However, briefly, the mechanism did allow the user to select tunes, films held in a plastic cassette that were inserted into place when a dime was inserted into the machine. The films were produced by a number of different companies, with the sound recorded on tape, and therefore superior to Soundies.

The earliest of Scopitone shorts featured European artists covering American hits, but as the machine’s popularity grew in the States, American artists were featured in newly-produced subjects. My friend Ray Anthony made some Scopitones, as did Dick and Dee Dee, Neil Sedaka, Herb Alpert, Dionne Warwick and Julie London. My favorite is one featuring Joi Lansing, but that’s another story altogether.