Frank Cook is hardly a household name today, and that was probably the case back in the early 1940s as well. He appears on film a number of times and what we have here is a highly entertaining juke box short. You’ll notice that I did not say “Soundie!” This film is a “Nickel Talkie” (sometimes spelled “Nickle”), one of the early competitors that fell by the wayside as the better financed Soundies organization started releasing shorts in January 1941.
Not a lot is known about guitarist/harmonica player Frank Cook, although he can be found in a handful of films produced in Los Angeles in the early 1940s. Cook also performed on the radio and variety stage in Los Angeles and San Francisco, although there is no mention in the trades of any national tours. In 1945 he joined Frankie Masters’s swing band in which he served as both rhythm guitarist and novelty performer on guitar and harmonica.
William Tell was a perfect subject for Nickel Talkies. The use of Rossini’s familiar theme meant that no royalty payment was necessary since the music was in the public domain. With one performer on screen, and only three “master shots,” Nickel Talkies could produce a short inexpensively, then expand the budget in other subjects. I shared this film with a friend a while back and he responded, “You can’t find people doing that anymore.” Only in the World of Soundies, I guess.