Celluloid Kissed the Radio Star

One person’s all-time favorite tune is another’s object of ridicule. (“Stairway to Heaven,” anyone, or “Papa Don’t Preach?”) With the passage of time, though, it gets a little easier to distinguish pop-culture crap from historical treasures. (Maybe.) Incredibly Strange Music, Other Cinema’s sampler from a trove of vintage music on film donated by local archivist Rick Prelinger, spans the sublime to the, well, less than sublime. It’s mostly “soundies,” buoyant performances shot on 16mm film in the 1940s and played and/or projected on coin-operated machines in bars and restaurants. Revelation awaits in the form of three-minute (war)time capsules by the wonderfully named Vanita Smythe (“Low, Shorty, and Squatty”), Ving Merlin (“Enchanted Violins”) and Mousie Powell and his Comedy Band (Crazy Things). The wayback machine also dredged up some campier pleasures, including the smooth as vanilla Steve Lawrence crooning Mine and Mine Alone and the pre- and pubescent Jackson Five showcasing their snazzy ‘60s dance moves and snazzier threads. Yesteryear’s pop, we daresay, hasn’t lost its snap and crackle.
Sat., April 9, 8:30 p.m., 2011

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