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Kino Lorber Announces ‘Soundies: The Ultimate Collection’ Showcasing WWII-Era American Pop Music Icons

Kino Lorber proudly announces the release of Soundies: The Ultimate Collection, a four-disc set featuring 200 short musical subjects –“Soundies” — that entertained Americans during the World War II era. Originally made to be viewed on movie jukeboxes in neighborhood bars, Soundies showcased a wide range of music artists, from top headliners to up-and-coming talents, in a variety of styles from Big Band and swing to folk and country-western. The films presented in this collection capture performances by American pop-music icons including Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Hoagy Carmichael, Nat King Cole, Dorothy Dandridge, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, Spike Jones, Liberace, Gale Storm, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Merle Travis, and Fats Waller — even Ricardo Montalban in his first screen appearance. Other films dig deep into the 1940s music scene, rediscovering performers like Vanita Smythe, Maurice Rocco, and Harry “The Hipster” Gibson.

Restored from the original archival film elements preserved by the Library of Congress, this collection was curated by Susan Delson, author of Soundies and the Changing Image of Black Americans on Screen: One Dime at a Time.

Soundies: The Ultimate Collection will be released on Blu-ray July 25, 2023, and will also be available to buy and rent digitally on Kino Now. The Blu-ray set comes packed with bonus features including an illustrated 44-page booklet with essays by Susan Delson, Ellen C. Scott and Mark Cantor; filmed introductions by series curator Susan Delson, with Ina Archer, Media Conservationist, National Museum of African American History and Culture; “Inside the Panoram,” a filmed interview with Mark Cantor, author of The Soundies: A History and Catalog of Jukebox Film Shorts of the 1940s; and “From the Vaults,” a filmed interview with Matt Barton (Curator of Recorded Sound at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center of the Library of Congress) and Mike Mashon (Head of the Moving Image Section of the Library of Congress).

Soundies have been called the music videos of the 1940s, but that doesn’t begin to describe their cultural importance. It’s true that they feature a remarkable range of talent, from big-band luminaries like Duke Ellington and Count Basie to then-emerging stars like Doris Day and Ricardo Montalban, and lesser-known artists of the American nightclub circuit. But Soundies are also a rich, largely overlooked chronicle of American popular culture during and just after World War II. Produced for coin-operated jukeboxes in neighborhood bars and taverns, Soundies have an uncanny way of revealing what Americans were thinking about topics that weren’t discussed openly, from sexuality to ethnicity and race.<

Curated by Susan Delson, author of Soundies and the Changing Image of Black Americans on Screen: One Dime at a Time, this four-disc collection presents a diverse sampling of 200 shorts—jazz, country-western, folk, and the boogie-woogie roots of rock ’n’ roll—newly restored from 35mm and 16mm materials preserved by the Library of Congress and other archives. Never have so many Soundies been celebrated in one collection, or presented with such care: thematically organized, accompanied by on-screen introductions and a booklet of essays, photos, and credits.

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