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  Rhythm and Blues Revue Rock All Night
Year: 1955
Director: Joseph Kohn
Stars: Lionel Hampton, Faye Adams, Bill Bailey, Herb Jeffries, Freddie Robinson, Amos Milburn, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, Martha Davis, Nat 'King' Cole, Mantan Moreland, Nipsey Russell, Cab Calloway, Ruth Brown, Willie Bryant
Genre: Comedy, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here's Willie Bryant to welcome you and introduce the evening's festivities, but before we get to the music there's a bit of business with comedian Freddie Robinson to take care of as he interrupts his opening spiel to ask him about the job he was supposed to get for him. Willie tells him there's a post on reception he could have, but he needs special skills, a lot like this woman here (Flo Robinson) who can read minds. Freddie has his doubts, but after Willie demonstrates successfully he does the same, then gets a slap in the face for his trouble...

I won't spoil the punchline, but suffice to say we were in vaudeville territory, with the items between the songs providing light relief to rockin' tunes from a variety of African American performers of 1954, some of whom had a great career behind them, some who would go on to greater success as the decade wore on, others who history has forgotten, leaving them to the aficionados to recall who they were and why they were awarded a spot in this cheap and cheerful revue show. It was one of a handful of such films made by Joseph Kohn around this time, and as the longest it was the best known.

Not that it was massively famous, but it proved entertaining for all the right reasons for those who were keen to give it a go. Bryant, a regular Master of Ceremonies at such theatrical shows (though the audience here was strictly stock footage), slickly introduced the acts and indulged in comedy sketches of the sort that one imagines had been passed down for generations such was their well-worn tone. The music offered the best reason to watch (or listen), but it was still interesting to see comics like Nipsey Russell, a few years away from his big break on classic sitcom Car 54, Where are You? and subsequent U.S. T.V. ubiquity, who was on the way up, and Mantan Moreland, whose by now stereotypical persona was well on the way out, on the way down.

It should be noted Mantan's routine here was pretty funny, so his renaissance in the next decade was deserved as people got to appreciate him once again. But music was the main attraction, just on the cusp of rock 'n' roll's domination of pop culture, making it all the more interesting to see Big Joe Turner's version of Shake, Rattle and Roll before Bill Hailey and the Comets covered it and made it a huge hit. However, it was not all modern (for 1954 when this was filmed) tunes, as the likes of Count Basie appeared as well to deliver some smooth big band jazz, although looking at him you might have expected a bigger orchestra than the one which appears with him here.

Most of the acts got to do one song, though Lionel Hampton's band did two (as did Count Basie's), the second one a very odd tune with electric organ and harem girl dancing, though Hampton looked as if he was thoroughly enjoying himself. Much respected names like Sarah Vaughan and Nat 'King' Cole didn't do all time classics here, the latter simply singing a Trinidad ditty accompanied only by a tom-tom, a far cry from his slick crooning at the piano in suit and tie you may be more familiar with. There were also a couple of tap dancers, one of whom, Bill Bailey (not the British comedian, obviously), performs the "Moonwalk" many years before Michael Jackson or Jeffrey Daniel for that matter. Somewhat inevitably, Cab Calloway turned up to offer us Minnie the Moocher, but just as much amusement could be garnered from the less recognisable acts such as Amos Milburn with one of his trademark booze-related songs. No masterpiece, then, but if you like the music, you'd be captivated.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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