Last night I watched our first "Movie of the Week", William Forest Crouch's Reet, Petite, and Gone! The film stars the Louis Jordan and features other entertainment greats like June Richmond, Lorenzo Tucker, Vanita Smythe, and Mabel Lee.
Old-time musical star Schyler Jarvis, now wealthy, is dying; his last act is a visionary plan for the future happiness of his son, swing bandleader Louis Jarvis, and Honey Carter, daughter of his long-lost love. But crooked lawyer Talbot has a nefarious scheme to get his hands on the Jarvis money...and it doesn't include any happiness for Louis and Honey. Plenty of swing from Louis Jordan's Tympany Five. [IMDb]
The storyline was pretty simple, pretty predictable. If anything, the musical numbers often made you forget that a storyline even existed.
|Bea Griffith and Louis Jordan as Honey Carter & Louis Jarvis|
Like the storyline, the characters' were pretty predictable. As with a lot of "race movies" (unfortunately), the acting in general wasn't particularly great, but three performers did play their roles well: the legendary Lorenzo Tucker, the unsung Vanita Smythe, and the film's star, Louis Jordan.
|The legendary Louis Jordan|
The great musician and bandleader, Louis Jordan, took on the hard task of playing a musician and bandleader in this film. No worries though, it was more than just "someone playing their self". Jordan was quite a natural in this role (especially compared to the other performers) and he delivered his lines flawlessly.
|"Black Valentino" (Lorenzo Tucker)|
What can I say about Lorenzo Tucker, one of early Black Cinema's biggest stars? Of course he was great in his role as the crooked lawyer, Henry Talbot. That's really all there is to it.
|The unsung great, Vanita Smythe|
Finally, Vanita Smythe. I'm actually a big fan of Ms. Smythe and her music and was disappointed to see that she didn't hum, sing, or whistle a thing! Nonetheless, the singer played the role of Rusty, Henry Talbot's secretary with subtle sultriness.
William Forest Crouch was a writer, producer, and director of many shorts and "soundies" and judging from his IMDb credits, this film is only one of two feature length pictures he's directed/produced. Mr. Crouch brought a lot of the soundie style to this film, but unfortunately--too much of it was brought.
Click Here to check out "Back Door Man", a soundie starring Vanita Smythe and directed by William Forest Crouch.
Overall, I think Reet, Petite, and Gone is more of a talent showcase than it is a movie, but if you're a classic black entertainment enthusiast like I am, this isn't such a huge negative. Just don't expect a well-written story, that's all.
You can watch Reet, Petite, and Gone on Youtube by clicking here.
All of the above photos (with the exception of two) were obtained from Wikipedia. The photo of Bea Griffith and Louis Jordan was obtained from Youtube (via Google Image Search) and the photo of Vanita Smythe is my own screenshot from a Youtube video (now circulating on Tumblr and in Google Search results).
If the rightful owner(s) of any of these images wants them removed, please contact me and I will do so immediately.--Adrienne