Take two film stars of the 1940s, Johnny Downs and Gale Storm, add a terrific song by Will Jason and Val Burton, wrap them up in an attractive “song-story” and you have a sure winner of a Soundie.
Johnny Downs was first known as a part of Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedies. After leaving the series he starred in a number of B musicals made at Universal in the 1940s. His gentle screen persona, good voice, and strong dancing skills made him an audience favorite. Gale Storm appeared on radio in the 1930s, and was a featured player, occasionally top-billed, in B films of the 1940s. A number of them were produced by the beloved Monogram. Storm was hugely popular on 1950s television, starring in two wonderful series that many of us will recall well: My Little Margie and the Gale Storm Show, also known as Oh! Susanna.
Both Downs and Storm were featured in a number of Soundies, both alone and as a pair. Here they appear together in a delightful short titled Penthouse Serenade, which features a popular song also known as “When We’re Alone.” No orchestra is seen on screen, and this song-story is a wonderful example of how to take two singers and a great song and end up with an inexpensive yet satisfying film short.
As a song-story, we see the action on screen but do not see the band. In this case, the soundtrack, recorded in April 1941, features David Rose and his Orchestra. Rose was a very successful radio band leader during the period, and it is quite possible that he brought his regular radio band along for the recording at Ralph Like’s International Studio. The arrangement is by either Rose or a member of his staff, and it provides the perfect setting for this film.
Rose would later have hit recordings with “Holiday For Strings” and “The Stripper,” but here he just provides a gentle background for the song and dance of our leads, Johnny Downs and Gale Storm.