The Soundies

A History and Catalog of Jukebox Film Shorts of the 1940s


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About the Book

The 1940s saw a brief audacious experiment in mass entertainment: a jukebox with a screen. Patrons could insert a dime, then listen to and watch such popular entertainers as Nat “King” Cole, Gene Krupa, Cab Calloway or Les Paul. A number of companies offered these tuneful delights, but the most successful was the Mills Novelty Company and its three-minute musical shorts called Soundies.
This book is a complete filmography of over 2,500 Soundies: the musicians heard and seen on screen, recording and filming dates, arrangers, soloists, dancers, entertainment trade reviews and more. Additional filmographies cover more than 80 subjects produced by other companies. There are 125 photos taken on film sets, along with advertising images and production documents. More than 75 interviews narrate the firsthand experiences and recollections of Soundies directors and participants. Forty years before MTV, the Soundies were there for those who loved the popular music of the 1940s. This was truly “music for the eyes.”

About the Author(s)

Mark Cantor is a Los Angeles-based musicologist, historian and archivist of jazz and popular music on film. He is the curator of the Celluloid Improvisations Music Film Archive, perhaps the largest privately held collection of musical performance on 16mm film worldwide. For more information, please visit the author’s website at

Bibliographic Details

Mark Cantor
Format: softcover (8.5 x 11 in 2 vols)
Pages: 893
Bibliographic Info: 125 photos, appendices, bibliography, indexes
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8313-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4642-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Forewords by Leonard Maltin and Will Friedwald 1
Preface 3
Introduction 6
Part One: History and Development 7
1. The Soundies Experience 8
2. Soundies Fundamentals 15
3. Early Antecedents—A Brief History 28
4. Research and Development 31
5. Just Shy of Making It 40
6. Techniprocess and Featurettes 47
7. The Mills Novelty Company, the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America and the Mills Panoram 50
8. The Production Process 58
9. The Production Companies 88
10. The Interviews 100
Part Two: The Soundies Inventory 135
The Catalog 138
Soundies Miniature Revue (X reissues) 594
The Soundies Performers and Session Descriptions 595
Part Three: Conclusions 777
Part Four: Other Inventories 781
Recording Sessions 795
Production Number and Company Identifications 801
Release Dates 802
Sideline Extras 805
Bibliography 813
Index 815
Techniprocess Index 863
Featurettes Index 865
Narrative Index 867

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “It’s an intriguing concept: an oversized, seven-foot-tall jukebox with a 22-by-17-inch screen positioned at eye level. In the 1940s, customers at a bar or restaurant could put in a dime and watch and listen to three-minute musical films called ‘soundies.’ Musicologist Cantor provides interviews with former performers and a technical history of the making and marketing of soundies….For 10 cents, twice the cost of a regular jukebox, people could watch celebrities, such as Nat King Cole, Gene Krupa, Cab Calloway, and Les Paul perform, and see stars such as Alan Ladd, Doris Day, Gloria Grahame, and Cyd Charisse make their first screen appearances….[This is] a detailed catalogue of 1,880 soundies, their production and casting notes, and more.”—Library Journal