Premiering Monday, February 27th at 9 p.m. on WTVP-HD
“Hi de hi de hi de ho!” Charismatic music and dance pioneer
Cab Calloway (12-25-1907 – 11-18-94) is an exceptional figure in the history of jazz. As a singer, dancer and
bandleader, he charmed audiences around the world with his boundless energy, bravado and elegant showmanship.
Calloway was also an ambassador for his race, leading one of the most popular African American big bands during
the Harlem Renaissance and jazz and swing eras of the 1930s-40s.
celebrates “The Hi De Ho Man’s” career and legacy during Black History Month with the new documentary
Cab Calloway: Sketchespremiering nationally Monday, February 27th at 9 p.m. on WTVP-HD
Emmy®-winning filmmaker Gail Levin explores Cab Calloway’s musical beginnings and milestones in
the context of the Harlem Renaissance and segregationist America using archival footage, animation based on
caricatures by famed illustrator Steve Brodner and French cartoonist Cabu, and interviews. The animated Cab
dances alongside Matthew Rushing, choreographer/principal dancer of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
(Uptown), who explains how modern Calloway’s movements were and his impact on hip-hop. Additional
interviewees include Calloway’s daughters Cecelia and Camay; grandson and Cab Calloway Orchestra bandleader
Chris “Calloway” Brooks; horn player Gerald Wilson; and The Blues Brothers (1980) director John Landis
and band members Steve Cropper, Lou Marini and Donald “Duck” Dunne. The film introduced Cab and his music to a
new generation, when he acted and performed as The Blues Brothers’ mentor, Curtis.
“I am especially delighted to bring Cab Calloway to younger audiences – and he does become quite
alive through the inventive animation in this film,” says Susan Lacy, AMERICAN MASTERS series creator and
executive producer. “He, and his era, are such a vital part of our musical cultural heritage – and such an
“This film is not just another biopic in the sense of interviews and recollections, but a
reinvigoration of the whole Calloway presence – a reprise of a timeless virtuoso,” adds Levin.
With The Cotton Club – where Blacks could perform but not attend – as his home stage, Cab
became a star of New York’s jazz scene, and then a household name with his signature song “Minnie the
Moocher.” Despite its tragic, taboo subject matter, the song broke into the mainstream and was even used
in Max and Dave Fleischer’s Betty Boop cartoon of the same name, along with Cab’s dance moves. Breaking
the color barrier with this “hi de ho” hit, Cab was one of the first Black musicians to tour the
segregationist South. He published a Hepster’s Dictionary of his jive slang in 1938, starred in films
including Stormy Weather (1943) with Lena Horne and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and played Sportin’
Life – a role George Gershwin modeled on him – in a 1952 touring production of Porgy and Bess,
making “It Ain’t Necessarily So” an enduring part of his brand. With his zany theatricality – scat singing,
jive talking, zoot suit wearing, straight-hair, head-shaking, and backslide dance (a precursor to Michael
Jackson’s moonwalk) – Cab transcended racial specificity on his own terms.
In 2011, AMERICAN MASTERS
earned its eighth Emmy® Award for Outstanding Primetime Nonfiction Series in 11 years. Now in its 26th season,
the series is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public
television stations, and operator of NJTV. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national
and local documentaries and other programs to the New York community.
Cab Calloway: Sketches
is a co-production of Artline Films, ARTE France, and AVRO, in association with Inscape Productions and THIRTEEN’s
AMERICAN MASTERS for WNET. Gail Levin is director and executive producer for Inscape Productions.
Jean-François Pitet and Gail Levin are co-writers. Olivier Mille is producer for Artline Films. Susan Lacy is the
series creator and executive producer of AMERICAN MASTERS. This program is made possible in part by the
support of CNC, PROCIREP, ANGOA, and SACEM.
AMERICAN MASTERS is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and
by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for AMERICAN MASTERS is provided by Rosalind
P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family,
Jack Rudin, Vital Projects Fund, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation,
and public television viewers.
For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of
at (309) 495-0591 or firstname.lastname@example.org