Oddball Films presents Lady Sings the Blues, an evening of film rarities of female blues and jazz musicians from the archive (including several not to be found or seen elsewhere) featuring works with Bessie Smith, Lena Horne, Nellie Lutcher, Alberta Hunter, Elizabeth Cotten, Keely Smith and Ivie Anderson. From mini-musicals to personal and in-depth portrait documentaries to rare performances and Soundies; this is more than just a night of incredible music. One of the most haunting and important films of the collection, view Bessie Smith's only film appearance in the moody musical melodrama St. Louis Blues (1929). In Alberta Hunter: Blues at the Cookery (1982), see Hunter's triumphant return to the stage in her 80s after decades working as a nurse. Rediscover the influential child prodigy, turned housekeeper, turned folk hero Elizabeth Cotten and her favorite upside-down guitar in Me and Stella (1976), an ultra rare and moving piece featuring intimate conversations with the octogenarian blues and folk singer-songwriter. Lena Horne dreams her way out of cleaning and into a singing contract in the mini-musical Lena Horne's Boogie Woogie Dream (1943). Plus, rare musical performances and soundies including Ivie Anderson singing Stormy Weather with Duke Ellington and his band, Nellie Lutcher's cheeky hit Real Gone Guy, Keely Smith belting out Birth of the Blues with Louis Prima, Sam Butera and the Witnesses and more surprises!
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating RSVP to RSVP@oddballfilm.com or (415) 558-8117
St. Louis Blues (1929, Dudley Murphy, B+W)
The only existing film footage of Bessie Smith will send chills down your spine. She does so much for her good-for-nuthin’ honey, only to be swindled and abused time and again. Iconic Blues songstress Bessie Smith shows how to throw it down in the seedy settings of this unique short with a rare track sung by our tragic heroine. W.C. Handy conceived and produced this gritty melodrama based on his 12 bar blues ballad of betrayal. Luckily for posterity, he had the foresight to ask Miss Smith to reprise her “role” as the ill-used love from her 1925 hit. An ambitious early sound film, Murphy pushed the technology of the day to its limits with surprisingly lush results. The Hall Johnson Choir do double duty as the singing speakeasy patrons and Jimmy Mordecai takes a turn as the tap dancing ne’er-do-well pimp.
Alberta Hunter: Blues at the Cookery (Color, 1982)
A portrait of 87-year-old blues artist, Alberta Hunter, who has played with Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Sidney Bechet. Between her renditions of "I got rhythm," "Sweet Georgia Brown," and the other numbers she performs at New York's The Cookery, Hunter reveals the story of her life. Giving up music for twenty years to work as a hospital nurse, Hunter began to sing again professionally at the age of 82.
An incredibly intimate portrait of (then) octogenarian Blues and Folk guitarist and songwriter Elizabeth Cotten and her beloved guitar Stella. Cotten taught herself how to play the guitar as a young girl, writing her first (and most well-known) song "Freight Train" at age 12 . Being left-handed with a family of right-handed brothers all sharing the same guitar, Elizabeth learned to play the guitar upside-down (a technique now referred to as "Cotten-picking"). She put down the guitar for 40 years until a chance encounter at a department store led to her employment in Mike Seeger's household, where she picked up the guitar again from scratch and began to record and tour the country on the Folk revival circuit in the 1960s. In the film, Cotten is candid and engaging as she plays her guitar in her own modest bedroom and cheerfully recounts her relationship to music throughout her life. An audience favorite at its Oddball debut, this extraordinary film demands a re-screening!
Lena Horne’s Boogie Woogie Dream (B+W, 1943)
Lena Horne plays a cleaning lady at a night club who daydreams her way into an evening gown and a raucous boogie woogie jam with the other hired help. The record company bigwig who stumbles into the dream has such a good time that he gives her a record contract!
Ivie Anderson in A Bundle of Blues (B+W, 1933, excerpt)
The Duke Ellington Orchestra swing in this stylish soundie gem, providing the musical accompaniment to Ivie Anderson's bluesy and possibly most moving rendition rendition of "Stormy
Weather" ever recorded.
The entertaining and unique jazz singer and pianist Nellie Lutcher sings one her biggest hits "Real Gone Guy," accompanying herself on the piano. Her signature style includes a fascinating staccato rhythm to her overly-dictioned phrases and cheeky asides. Nina Simone credits Lutcher as being one of her primary influences.
Filmed on the South Sore at Lake Tahoe, this super rare short features Louis Prima with Keely Smith and Sam Butera and the Witnesses. Keely performs "Birth of the Blues" with the high-energy band.
About Oddball Films
Our films are almost exclusively drawn from our collection of over 50,000 16mm prints of animation, commercials, educational films, feature films, movie trailers, medical, industrial military, news out-takes and every genre in between. We’re actively working to present rarely screened genres of cinema as well as avant-garde and ethno-cultural documentaries, which expand the boundaries of cinema. Oddball Films is the largest film archive in Northern California and one of the most unusual private collections in the US. We invite you to join us in our weekly offerings of offbeat cinema.
Oddball films is a stock footage company providing offbeat and unusual film footage for feature films like Milk, documentaries like The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Silicon Valley, Kurt Cobain: The Montage of Heck, television programs like Mythbusters, clips for Boing Boing and web projects around the world.