SoundCheck is in the midst of “Hi-De-Ho,” English writer Alyn Shipton’s biography of Cab Calloway, coming from Oxford University Press in October. The book — the first full-length bio of the High Priest of Hep — makes the implicit point that the bandleader-singer-dancer made his meteoric rise in the early ’30s via his appearances in other media — on radio, and, more importantly, in feature films and shorts.
Friday’s a good day to lean back and get some Internet kicks, so we offer one of Calloway’s earliest and most celebrated film appearances, in the Fleischer Brothers’ 1932 short “Minnie the Moocher.”
This Betty Boop cartoon, which coincided with Cab’s star-making appearances at New York’s Cotton Club, begins with a live-action cameo by Calloway’s orchestra. Later in the short, he sings his famous, sensational titular hit, rife with jive drug references; via Dave Fleischer’s invention, the Rotoscope, Calloway supplied the movements for the goblin who menaces Betty and her canine pal Bimbo. It remains lurid, spooky fun.