Bandleader Paul Whiteman accompanies singer Ilene Woods in "I’ll Get By" (music by Fred E. Ahlert, lyrics by Roy Turk, 1928) in a 1944 "Sing With the Stars" film for servicemen in WWII. Ilene Woods, who died in 2010 at age 81, was most famous as the singing voice of the animated 1950 Disney film "Cinderella." She is just 15 years old in this clip.
Michael Feinstein writes:
I discovered this 16 mm film on eBay; it’'one of a series of short musical films produced by the Armed Forces Special Services to entertain the troops during World War II. The series "Sing With the Stars" featured the biggest names of stage, screen, and radio performing popular songs of the day, and then inviting "the fellas" to sing along with the bouncing ball. These films were made exclusively for the military, and were never seen by the general public. Fortunately, most of the "Sing with the Stars" films were preserved and reside in the National Archives; but this film isn’t listed in the Archives’ catalogue. When I saw it up on eBay, I immediately contacted series producer/director Amber Edwards and asked if we should bid. "Yes!" was the enthusiastic reply. Footage from this film is included in Episode 2 of our Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook series ("Best Band in the Land" - Wednesday, October 13, at 8 PM) but not this particular song.
By 1944, bandleader Paul Whiteman had been a superstar for two decades, having been the first recording artist to sell a million records ("Whispering" on RCA-Victor in 1920) and having commissioned George Gershwin to write "Rhapsody in Blue" in 1924–whose theme Whiteman appropriated as his own for the rest of his career. Whiteman was more gifted as a self-promoter than as a musician, but his influence and importance to 20th Egotistical as he was, he was generous (and shrewd) about discovering (and exploiting) new talent, even as his own star began to dim over the years. Here, he introduces and accompanies 15-year-old Ilene Woods singing "I’ll Get By" (music by Fred E. Ahlert, lyrics by Roy Turk, 1928.)
Ilene Woods (who died in 2010 at age 81 and was probably most famous as the singing voice of the animated 1950 Disney film "Cinderella") was a prodigy who started performing when she was just two years old, and by age 14, she had her own radio program on ABC.
I always find the "Sing with the Stars" films very moving, despite the cheesy bouncing ball and goofy illustrations. I imagine a time when everybody knew and sang these songs as part of ordinary life; and then I imagine servicemen gathered together in a barracks somewhere overseas, singing their hearts out and thinking about home, family, and sweethearts as they belt out the words "I’ll get by, as long as I have you." The greatest of these songs distill simple but profound thoughts and emotions, and, wedded to beautiful melodies, they can still hit us straight in the heart.