First, just so we do not perpetuate a falsehood, NOWHERE in the Sherlock Holmes canon does A. Conan Doyle have Holmes say, “Quick Watson, the needle.” This phrase (actually, “Oh, Watson, the needle”) is the last line in the 1939 film adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles staring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. It might have come from an earlier stage play or from the creative mind of a 20th Century-Fox screenwriter.
This is the long way of explaining the title of our Soundie, Quick Watson the Rhythm. The short is a prime example of how a Soundie with a budget of next to nothing can provide entertainment nearly 80 years after its release. The song is by Walter Bishop, father of the famous bop pianist of the same name. The tune and lyrics are attractive, well performed by vocalist Myra Johnson who is supported by a combo of non-union musicians. The dancers do no harm, either. There is little to say about the set: just a stage with top hats pictured above decorative stripes.
The featured singer, Myra Johnson, had been active in entertainment since the 1930s. A fine rhythm singer, Johnson was popular in nightclubs and stage revues and she toured the infamous Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA) circuit early in her career. Johnson worked with Fats Waller’s big band throughout much of 1936 and into 1937. Club dates and radio took up much of her time in the 1940s, and she often appeared in smaller nightclubs as the headline act.
The Harlem Honeys, a group of six dancers, were probably employed through Harlem’s Sun Tan Studios. The group includes “Lil Bit” Brown, Doris
Anderson, Myrtle Eps, Eleanor McQueen and two unidentified performers. Despite a budget-conscious producer, the girls have a routine set. They were either working together in a club or had enough rehearsal time to put the routine together before sideline photography took place during the mid-1943.
No much happens visually here: Myra sings and the women dance. Yet the Soundie, for this viewer, is infectious and delightful. “Simple and inexpensive” in the World of Soundies often works!