“Soundies Noir” is what I thought when I revisited this short after many years. Now, keeping in mind that Panorams were located in many different locales – hotel lobbies, restaurant foyers, recreation halls, bus depots, and even ferry boats – one might question the appeal of Side Street. The Soundie is set in a back-alley café, with dark-mood music, and a bit of menace in the Apache-influenced dance by Jayne and Roye Dodge. I assume that Soundies executive felt this would attract user dimes in bars and taverns. Although the dance segment is only a minute and a half long, it is well-choreographed, almost slick, and really works in the context of the somber setting.
The 16mm print of the Soundie has shrunk over the years. I did my best in the transfer, but a slight bit of “jiggle” remains. I’ll try to upgrade in the future. For now, enjoy our journey off the Soundies main drag for a visit to a side street.
Roye Dodge began his career in the 1930s as a part of the Dodge Brothers dance team. Jayne (maiden name unknown) came to study with him in Manhattan and they married in 1939. As a husband-and-wife team, they appeared on nightclub, hotel, and theater stages in Manhattan, either as a couple or as lead dancers in larger groups. After the war the two opened a studio in midtown Manhattan where they taught ballroom and tap dance; according to June Taylor, head of the June Taylor Dancers, Roye Dodge was a “noted choreography,” presumable for the Broadway stage. Roye Dodge also choreographed routines on early television and in a small number of features including Mister Rock-and-Roll and This Angry Age (both 1957).
Side Stage was produced in April 1943 during the recording ban/musicians’ strike. Producer William Forest Crouch purchased a soundtrack curiously titled “parade music” from National Concert and Artist Corporation and used it for this short.
Billboard reviewed the film as follows: “Jayne and Roye Dodge are the stars of Side Street. Scene is a sidewalk cafe, and the Dodges do a dance routine. Slow in getting started, and the dancing lacks any original twists.”
I think Billboard missed the mark here!