In the 1940s, the word standard, or the phrase Great American Songbook, had not yet been used to describe enduring popular hits from the Broadway stage, Hollywood musicals, or pens of the great songsmiths of that era. These essential melodies were referred to as merely pop songs, hit songs, and occasionally “oldies.”
One of the early members of this fabled “society of songs” is Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” The early recordings tend to be peppy and jazzed-influenced. Then, Isham Jones introduced a new approach in 1930. The tune was now played in ballad tempo, with sentimental lyrics added by Mitchell Parish … and the whole nature of the song changed. “Stardust” has been recorded thousands of times, and if you have the patience and nerve, you can find versions by Bob Dylan, Ringo Star, and Rod Stewart. Or merely click on this Soundie by Will Osborne and his Orchestra from 1941.
Will Osborne had been leading a dance orchestra since the 1924, although at various times he was forced to disband, only to put together a new group soon after. The band that we see and hear in this Soundie was together for only three or four months, and its attempt to play hotter music did not please Osborne’s fans. It was sentimental dance music, the type heard in this performance, that the public demanded from Osborne.
While Osborne played clarinet, and is a very fine jazz soloist, as heard in the companion Soundie, A Feller Who Plays In a Band. He also featured himself as vocalist. His tuneful, honest style appealed to listeners and he comes across well in this performance, with the arrangement probably put together by Karl Leaf. Strangely enough, producer Sam Coslow only featured the band in two of the four Soundies, and in A Feller Who Plays In a Band, it is just briefly at the conclusion of the short. The other two Soundies are novelty pieces by Coslow in which the band provides the music off screen. This was an excellent dance organization and it certainly deserved better treatment from Coslow.
Two dancers are featured along with Osborne and the band. They were originally to have been billed as The Terpsichorean Twins, but that name was probably just too cumbersome for the opening credits, and their first names, “Maxine and Marilyn,” were used instead. For the record, Maxine’s surname was Armour, and Marilyn’s was Christine. They don’t do any harm at all, but it is Carmichael’s classic composition that takes center stage in this Soundie.