Archives of Early Lindy Hop

Symphony in Black:A Rhapsody of Negro Life

10 mins., black & white, 16mm. FAB 6260
Paramount Pictures, 1935.
Director: Fred Waller;
Photography: William Steiner, Jr.
Valburn/Ellington Collection of the Library of Congress

This film of extraordinary historic and esthetic interest features Duke Ellington at the piano presumably composing the title symphony, crosscut with shots of a band playing the music. Includes the numbers "Jealousy", and the four parts of the composition in order: "The Laborers", "A Triangle (Dance, Jealousy and Blues)", "A Hymn of Sorrow" and "Harlem Rhythm". In the second part an uncredited 18-year old Billie Holliday sings the blues while watching a couple dancing Lindy Hop in silhouette behind a window shade. Dancers are unknown. Also on the film is the eccentric dancer (that's a style, not an opinion) Earl "Snakehips" Tucker demonstrating his gifts in an appropriately surrealistic film sequence. Not to be missed.

Written and researched by Judy Pritchett with Frankie Manning (C)1995,1996. May be reproduced only with explicit written permission. Last updated:15 June 1996.Send your suggestions, corrections or comments to

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