I Like Big Band and I Cannot Lie!
It seems fitting that I opened a box last night to find one of my favourite films of all time. Fitting because we’re now counting down to Halloween and this film has just a bit of old school fright tucked into its perfect package of mirth and mayhem.
I’ve been a fan of the big band era for a long time. I discovered these fabulous tunes when I stumbled upon my stepfather’s record collection. I spent countless hours of my youth listening to Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. But one artist stood out for me, likely because he embodied much more than music. He was an entertainer. A smart, funny and charismatic bandleader. His name was Kay Kyser, The Ol’ Professor of Swing.
My love for Kay exploded when, again thanks to my stepfather and his VHS tapes, I discovered a film Kay and his gang made entitled You’ll Find Out. Produced in 1940, this gem features the talents of Kay and his band: the voices of Harry Babbitt and Ginny Simms, the hilarity of Ish Kabibble and Sully Mason, and Kay’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge. But this film also included three actors who were making waves in an entirely different genre: horror/thriller. The likes of Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Mwah ha ha ha!
This blend of music, comedy and mystery was really appealing to me. Perhaps it’s the reason I fell for Scooby Doo, too, but that’s a post for another time.
Last week, I pulled out this perennial favourite and showed it to the kids. It took every ounce of my being not to recite the entire film; I may have seen it a few (hundred) times. I was pleasantly surprised that the kids enjoyed it. Sure, lots of it was over their heads. Some parts took some explaining: Why is the movie in black and white? How does that totally cool sonovox thing work? Just what does Ish Kabibble mean and why is that name so fun to say over and over?
But they found themselves following the story and trying to guess what would happen next, or who would really end up being the bad guy – even shouting at the screen on occasion: “Turn around! Look behind you!” They bopped along with the music and giggled at the humour.
My seven year old even asked to watch it again. He’s now my favourite child.
Cynthia Kinnunen is a freelance writer and communications consultant who takes great pleasure in sharing old and new school fun with her three kids.