“But with a little sex…” So insists film producer “Mr. Hadrian” (played by character actor Porter Hall) to any script proposal in the classic 1941 Preston Sturgis film Sullivan’s Travels.
Of course, what “a little sex” meant in 1940 and what it means now are two different things. The Man That Comes Around offers not only some fine music, but also one nice visual shock, and “a little sex.”
“The Man That Comes Around” was a 1939 recorded hit by Tommy Tucker and his Orchestra (Les Brown and Ozzie Nelson also covered it), a double-entendre song that tells about the visitors that Mom entertains while Dad is away at work. (These interlopers are clearly a precursor to the dreaded Jodie Man.)
Now, this is not a Soundie, but rather a Techniprocess short, one of the many competitors in the market before Mills Novelty Company and Soundies sewed up the business. (A complete inventory of Techniproces shorts will be in the upcoming Soundies filmography.)
This short is in the form of a “song story,” that is, music with the lyrics acted out on screen, The recording band, a studio group led by Thomas Peluso, is not seen on screen, although we see and hear variety artist Jim Merceras the “Little Boy” who tells the tale. “Mom” is played by a woman named Charlotte who, Jim Mercer recalled, was a “stripper who worked down on Broadway.”
This film, and four others, was produced as a “test reel,” rather than one intended for full public release. Two shorts feature risqué lyrics and one offers complete waist-up nudity. The films were shown in Guam and the Midway Islands … possibly in Berlin … and were probably screened to members of the armed forces. The fact that the producers were unconcerned with possible censorship or public outcry is indicated by the fact that “Mom’s” left breast is fully exposed, then quickly but casually covered, as the actress lays in the reclining chair.