Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mystery in Swing

During the period when the United States was still in the throes of segregation, there was a thriving movie business for African-Americans by African-Americans.
Whites seldom saw what they called "race movies" and were mainly acquainted with black actors like Hattie McDaniels (Mammy won her the first Supporting Actress for GONE WITH THE WIND, 1939) and Bill (Bojangles) Robinson.
(Robinson with arguably his best-known partner, Shirley Temple)
The United States did appreciate cross-over artists like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington who made movies as well as music with their orchestras.
Mystery in Swing (1940) is one of the movies made when the "race movies" were in their heyday.
It's typical of the day that these movies covered the same genres that Hollywood's bigger studios did.
Mystery . . . is a murder mystery revolving around Prince Ellis, a trumpet-player whose ego is as big as his talent.
So guess who gets killed?!
Our hero is Monte Hawley, a favorite of African-American audiences, as Biff Boyd, a reporter who has to interview Prince Ellis to keep his job.
He's partial to one of his co-workers, Linda Carroll (played by Marguerite Whitten), who's sister and father are suspects in Ellis' murder.
It's a Aetna Film B-Feature and a International Roadshow Release.
Acting and production levels are good and well-worth the watching, including the musical numbers by CeePee Johnson and his Orchestra.
The Four Toppers and Josephine Edwards (as Maxine Rae) do great musical numbers with quite an ending:
Maxine Rae becomes the second victim of murder as she ends her number, a rather memorable way to go out!
This happens about the time that Biff Boyd and the police that Prince Ellis was poisoned while playing his trumpet in the privacy of his home.
That's one killer horn to Maven's opinion!
It's also Maven's opinion that you'll forget that you're watching a "black movie" since you'll quickly get involved with the characters set against the worlds of newspapers and nightclubs!
If you'd like to get this movie, or other difficult-to-find films, contact
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Do you have a comment, question or suggestions about movies?
You can either email Maven at or write her at:
Miss Maven
P.O. Box 54493
Hurst, TX 76054


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