WEIRDLAND: Drum Kits in "Phantom Lady" by Robert Siodmak

Monday, July 16, 2012

Drum Kits in "Phantom Lady" by Robert Siodmak

Ella Raines and Elisha Cook Jr. in "Phantom Lady" (1944) directed by Robert Siodmak (jazz drums scene).

The scene in the jazz cellar is a significant turning point in the film’s plot; exploiting stereotypes carried over from “the jazz age” and long held assumptions about the jazz lifestyle. Ella Raines as Carol wears a costume with no mixed messages; even a Midwestern girl new to the big city knows precisely how to communicate her intentions to Cook’s drummer man (including the beauty patch that passes as a mole). What follows is a barely masked display of drugs, jazz and sexual innuendo, which could not have been lost on wartime audiences watching the film for the first time (the drum solo is not listed in the credits, some sources claim Gene Krupa but evidence exists that Dave Coleman, Sr. might have been the drummer for this scene).

Director Robert Siodmak, producer Joan Harrison, Ella Raines and Franchot Tone on the set of Phantom Lady

The distinctly different styles used in each of these sequences further punctuate the fact that music is not used elsewhere in the film. There is no atmospheric or incidental music, and little to no exterior noises. The world of this Siodmak film is an eerily silent and sterile one.

Film noir often brings the hero in contact with the classic female characters of the genre: the actress, the call girl, the dancer and the singer. Phantom Lady brings the heroine in contact with the classic male characters of the genre: the bartender, the cabdriver, the detective and the musician. Source:

In short, Cook's insane Gene Krupa-dubbed solo in the basement bar is one of the most gloriously unseemly bits of sexual sublimation in sound cinema. It's sexual sublimation gone horribly right and wrong at the same time. And though Ella Raines is basically cozying up to him to get information, she still turns into a kind of creepy jazz-loving libertine, conjuring up his ferocious solo like its a spirit borne wailing from her fallopian tubes to his drum sticks and back again. Source:

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