“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” And so we were taught in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Certainly, this is true within the context of that classic film, but it also explains, in part, the birth and perpetuation of racial stereotypes, including those seen in this Soundie.

The image for many of the African American Southern Baptist religious service includes an exuberant pastor, call-and-response between the pastor and the congregation, the emersion of the converted in water, and, in general, a high energy level. Indeed, this was the nature of the Black religious experience for many who grew up in the South. This imagery was used throughout pop culture, in ways both serious and derogatory, and ultimately perpetuated the stereotype that this was how all African Americans worshipped. That this imagery made its way into Soundies is not the least surprising. In Yes Indeed, featuring Dorothy Dandridge and the Spirits of Rhythm, these stereotypes are clearly on display. The extent to which they are offensive is something that each viewer must determine for him/herself. My take is that while the images clearly and uncomfortably play on racial stereotypes, they were used to support a musical story, rather than to outwardly mock or deride the black experience.

This is one of the very few Soundies where the directors seat is shared by two individuals, Josef Berne and Dudley Murphy. The first half of the Soundie, possibly directed by Josef Berne, presents the white director’s “vision” of a black religious service, not dissimilar to that seen in Preston Sturges’s Sullivans Travels or some of the features by African American director Spencer Williams. With the introduction of Dorothy Dandridge in the second half of the Soundie, Dudley Murphy transitions to a swing rhythm, using brief cutaways of black worshipers to keep the film moving forward. Never mind that the film incorrectly conflates  Southern Baptist traditions with that of the Presbyterian “Holy Rollers.

The high point of the film is the startling shift from rural churchgoers to the modishly dressed, urbane, and quite gorgeous Dorothy Dandridge. Her presence (and acceptance) in the congregation points to the emergence of a new and progressive role for Black people in American society.

The Spirits of Rhythm provide only vocal support in this Soundie, with the instrumental accompaniment played of-screen by an almost anonymous Bob Crosby orchestra. (The sideline piano is probably Raymond LaRue.) The preacher is almost certainly Jesse Lee Brooks, a highly accomplished black actor seen in many films during the 1930s and 1940s.