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The Arkansas Swing [Movie]

Following success in radio and recording in the 1930s, the Hoosier Hotshots, a swing and jazz quartet that also performed humorous novelty songs, appeared in twenty-one Hollywood films from 1939 to 1957. The membership of the group varied but always included brothers Ken and Paul Trietsch, and usually Gil Taylor and Charles Ward; they were the four Hotshots featured in Columbia’s film The Arkansas Swing (1948), a sixty-two-minute musical comedy feature.

The Hotshots, along with singers Stuart Hart and Dorothy Porter, perform eight country, swing, blues, and novelty songs in the movie. The black-and-white film opens with an assurance by the narrator that “there is nothing in America more American than the state or county fair” and hangs its thin story on harness racing at the county fair in fictitious Ormy County, Arkansas. Between songs, the zany Hotshots discover that Senator Peachy, a race horse owned by little girl Toni (played by Elinor Donahue), will run only when he hears music played on a washboard (a signature Hotshots instrument). Pamela (June Vincent), an arrogant, spoiled rich girl, goes so far as to sabotage her own horse so Bill (Stuart Hart), whom she wants to steal from his sweetheart Margie (Gloria Henry), will lose a bet and remain too poor to marry Margie. The Hotshots save the day by playing their washboard on the public address system so Senator Peachy wins the race and Bill wins his last-minute bet.

Besides the abundant old-time music, the entertainment value of the film is provided mainly by Donahue’s peppy little girl and Vincent’s scheming, man-stealing villainess. All three of the actresses in this minor B-movie went on to successful careers: Henry has more than sixty film and television credits in the Internet Movie Database, and Vincent and Donahue each have more than 100. Child star Donahue went on to play the teenage daughter in the classic 1950s TV show Father Knows Best, for which she was nominated for an Emmy.

For additional information:
The Arkansas Swing.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0309299/ (accessed May 24, 2017).

Michael Klossner
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 5/24/2017

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