Somebody Loves Me (1952)
When the movie about their lives was being made,
Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields were both still very much alive.
They had a big influence on the content of the film. The two worked closely with Betty Hutton.
According to Fields, "Betty walks like Blossom, talks like Blossom, sings like Blossom and even sometimes looks like Blossom."
So what was it that led them to promote the inclusion of a tribute to Florence Mills in the movie?
Blossom had been a contemporary admirer of Florence and recorded her Sleepy Hills of Tennessee number in 1923.
She probably included others, like Dixie Dreams in her repertoire.
In Benny Fields case the connection is even closer.
In her autobiography His Eye is on the Sparrow, Bricktop (Ada Smith) recalled how in Chicago, around 1916-1917, the Panama Trio (Bricktop, Florence Mills and Cora Green) would join up after hours with three white singers (Benny Fields, Benny Davis and another) to harmonize together in Chicago's buffet flats.
“We really paid for a place to get together where we could sit around and harmonize till six or seven in the morning, no hanky-panky."
So there was good reason for Seeley and Fields to remember Florence Mills. Here is how Betty Hutton channelled Florence Mills:
If clicking the link doesn't work, may need to download and play; slower but worth the wait.
It may be possible to find the whole movie on YouTube or elsewhere online. Dixie Dreams is at about the 1:05:09 point.
No reviewers have ever identified the Dixie Dreams sequence as referring to Florence Mills, not even the black press, usually keen to note such matters.
For those who take the trouble to view or acquire the whole movie, there is an added bonus.
It includes a scene in which the great Jeni Le Gon accompanies Betty Hutton, (at about the 26:50 mark).
Though cast as a maidservant, she is a full partner with Hutton in the dance
This is unlike many movies, where black performers could be easily clipped to avoid offending Deep South sensitivities!
"In Hollywood I played a lot of different kinds of maids. I've been an Arabian maid, I've been an African maid, I've been an American maid three or four times . . . the numbers I sang and danced in, they took out the dancing part, which was very cruel. My best for me was with Betty Hutton in a movie."
[Quoted in Untold glory : African Americans in pursuit of freedom, opportunity, and achievement, Alan Govenar, p. 238]
Back to Home