The 30s and 40s30s and 40s
Hi Lindy Hoppers!!!
Swing in the Golden Age
The Paramount Contest
The Paramount Contest
In 1937

This photograph accompanied a newspaper article from: The one and only
Who's Who in Dancing

(Vol IV, Week of November 30, 1937, No. 24)

Swing Dance Tournament at the Paramount Theater Starting Dec 9
BY: Ted Tilson (Dancing Topics Staff Reporter)

The grand finals of the Paramount Theater/Los Angeles Evening News Swing dance contest series has been set for December 9, terminating one of the most novel dance tournaments ever staged through the united cooperation of Local and Bay City ballroom managers...

The caption to the Photo reads:

"Swing Contestants Swing IT: Seen swinging into action are Lillian Arnold and Lawrence Wise, Mary McCaslin and Maxie Dorf, and Venna Cascon and Gil Fernadez who have been prominent contestants in the current Paramount Theater/ Los Angeles evening news Swing Contest."

To put this in context: The most famous "swing troupe" in LA between 1936 and 1939 where the "Ray Rand" swingers or nicknamed by the LA locals as "The Big Four" which where Maxie Dorf, Hal Takier, Lawrence "Lolly" Wise and Gil Fernandez. (Remember those names!) These Dancers toured up and down the state of California doing exhibitions and entering contests until Ray Rand called it quits in 1939. So, you have pictures of three of the Big Four in their prime right here.

Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan
Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan
What a Swingout!

Prior to the advent of Lindy, LA dancers did "Balboa - Swing" or "Bal Swing"in which closed position dominated. This was "hopped up" Balboa with 8 count steps which eventually adopted spins, drops, aerials and novelties such as pecking and boogie steps.

Dean Collins made his way to LA from the East and is credited with introducing Lindy Hop to the West. This photo shows Dean with his favorite partner, Jewel McGowan. Jewel is the lady with the fantastic swivel in Buck Privates.

Dean and Jewel appear in a whole bunch of great films, including Hellzapoppin, The Horn Blows at Midnight, and Living it Up to name but a few.

Erik Robinson, Jean Veloz, and Sylvia Skylar brought some of that Hollywood Magic out to us this spring --- they seem to be at the head of the movement to re-create authentic Collins-Style Lindy. Our own Jim Kranyak actually studied with Dean Collins

By the way, if you can't read the little note at the bottom right hand corner of the photo, it says:

NOTICE astounded looks on the faces of Stars as jitterbugs take the floor... (That's Ronald Colman looking "astounded".

We rarely see Maxie Dorf's Balboa Swing here on the East Coast. That's really too bad, because our California trip showed us the beauty of Balboa --- and its extreme usefulness when the music gets going very fast. You promoters out there are strongly encouraged to get Maxie Dorf out here to get Balboa going in DC.

Jack Arkin and Marion Goldy
Jack Arkin and Marion Goldy
The Swingeroo

On Sunday June 18, 1939 the Palomar Ballroom sponsored the "World's Biggest Jitterbug Contest" at the Los Angeles Collisium. It was called the "The Swingeroo". Artie Shaw's Band supplied the music. Over 1,000 contestants danced in heats starting at 7:00 am until 6:00 pm on a 12,000 foot dance floor! (Glen Echo is 6,500 sq. ft)

The awards ceremony was at the Palomar Ballroom. The winners in the International Category where Jack Arkin and Marion Goldy with runner-ups Hal Takier and Betty Roeser.

This is a blowup of a section of an autographed still photo from the contest showing Jack and Marion

Artie Shaw
Artie Shaw
Dig those spectator shoes!

This is a picture of Artie Shaw also taken from a still photo from "The Swingeroo"

Umbrella Dance
Umbrella Dance
From The Powers Girl

This is a section of a still from the 1942 film, The Powers Girl which features the Benny Goodman Band. This is the legendary "Umbrella Dance", where couples do Lindy Hop in the rain. One couple manages to hang onto an umbrella and keep it twirling as they execute all sorts of incredible moves. Alas, this film is hard to come by.

Ray Phelps
Ray Phelps
At Bourston's

This is a photo of Ray Phelps, a noteworthy swing dancer from the 1940s. The shot was taken at Bourston's, a Los Angeles club, in 1946. Ray Phelps is the brother of our beloved Jean Veloz.

Maxie says: " This will give you an idea of the dress code at the time. I don't know the gal's name. "

At Bourston's
At Bourston's
Has anything changed?

This is a photo of an unknown couple executing a fish flip at Bourston', again in 1946. We like the decor and notice that the ladies in the back are wearing saddle shoes. This could have been taken at America last week --- good on you, all you vintage dressers!

Maxie says: " Lindy is taking off all over the country, including here. The kids are dressing for it, although not way it was back then. We wore Hi-rise pants and suspenders, but not chains and hats. The Pachucos on the east side of LA wore those clothes. No men wore the black and white shoes they are wearing today. Maybe they did in New York, but not in the West. In the late 30's the gals wore dresses and skirts with hose and high heels. They started wearing white shoes like sneakers in the late 40s and 50s. "

We hope you enjoyed this fascinating look at the 30s and 40s. Check out these other photo spreads supplied by Maxie Dorf

  • Mary McCaslin Mary and Maxie
  • The Twins The Twins
  • Living Legends The Living Legends of Swing
  • Maxie in Action Maxie in Action

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