A poster for “Rufus Jones for President.”
Note: Eve has discontinued her YouTube Theater, but has consented to have me post the entries she has already written.
Ever see Rufus Jones for President? Calling it “quite a pip” would be an understatement. Filmed at the Vitaphone studio in Brooklyn, it’s a cringingly racist little two-reeler, with Ethel Waters (still in her jazzy phase, before she became Mother Courage), and seven-year-old Sammy Davis Jr., in which little Rufus Jones does indeed get elected President (blacks and women as President were topics of hilarity well into the 1970s).
I will spare you as much of the film as I can, but you must see this closing number, “Puttin’ It On,” performed by the Will Vodery Girls, a troupe of chorines who worked the black nightclub and vaudeville circuit. At the 2:19 mark, catch your breath—The Girl In The Satin Dress bursts onscreen in the most amazing dance exhibition I have ever seen (her nattily attired partner is no slouch, either):
Who was she?! I don’t think she was one of the Will Vodery troupe; she’s costumed differently, she and her partner have a whole different performance style. Did director Roy Mack or one of the performers know her from the New York club or theater scene? The Girl In The Satin Dress remains one of the great mysteries of filmdom, we may never know her name—but thank goodness someone had the sense to put her in front of the cameras for two ecstatic minutes in 1933.
Wish I knew her name, but alas… Considering the year and the New York filming, my guess is that she may have been a Cotton Club featured performer. Would be interesting to track her down.
Isn’t she amazing! Every time the camera cut away from her, I shrieked in fury.