While the sight of a naval, uncovered legs or excess cleavage would throw the handful of local censorship boards into a tizzy, there are other reasons that more than one version exists for a small number of Soundies. There is some evidence that different prints were occasionally released for Canadian audiences. After the war, certain content that was no longer seen as relevant was removed from a small number of prints.
“(I’ll Be Glad When You Dead) You Rascal You” was first recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1931. Louis performed the song twice on film the following year. The song was popular with Armstrong’s audience and “You Rascal You” remained in his “book” for more than thirty years. In April 1942, when this Soundie was produced, Louis was clearly inspired by the tune, and while we may not hear enough of Louis’s horn, his playing here is truly majestic. You do not have to play a lot of notes to get to the essence of jazz! The band swings mightily, with the rhythm section anchored by one of the finest drummers in the history of the music, Sid Catlett. While arranger credits are not among the surviving paperwork, Armstrong expert Ricky Ricardi suggests that the chart was “almost certainly done by Joe Garland.”
This is not an original print – it may be a Canadian release – and there is one striking change in the visual imagery. In an original release we see Luis Russell pick up a newspaper while sitting at his piano. At the point where the band chants, “We’ll be tickled to death when you leave this Earth, you dogs,” we focus in on Russell’s paper where we see images of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. In this reissue print this brief scene has been replaced by an image of Catlett at the drums. The mystery of the replacement footage deepens when you see that the sync of Catlett’s drum break is especially strong.
All of the minutiae becomes far less important as we listen to Louis play and sing in the manner that made him one of the greatest musicians in the history of jazz. This is a great Soundie, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s Louis Armstrong!