On Jan. 30, the last of The Andrews Sisters, Patty Andrews, (center) died at the age of 94. It marked the end of an era.
Hello Everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today to reflect on the legacy of The Andrews Sisters and their considerable influence on American pop culture.
Their biggest hits were on records and Juke Boxes. Do kids today even know what Juke Boxes were? (To see one used for powerful dramatic effect in one of our favorite classic movies, check out the finale of 1950’s The Asphalt Jungle directed by John Huston.)
Today music is downloaded directly onto I Pods and I phones, but in the 30s, 40s, and 50s if you wanted to hear a song and couldn’t wait for the next time it was played on the radio, you bought the disc for your collection, or went to a place which had a Juke Box, usually a candy store, drug store or bar.
Those quaint machines held the hit records of the day and for a nickel (6 for a quarter) you got to hear the song of your choice. And from 1937 through the 50s those songs were often sung by the Andrews Sisters. By one count, they recorded upwards of 400 songs and sold an astounding 80 million records.
They made movies as well — about a dozen low budget quickies at Universal from 1940 through 1944, and bigger productions later. These are hardly classic titles, but they certainly provided entertainment for wartime audiences. Enjoy the sisters in Hollywood Canteen or — one of their best performances — with their pal Bing Crosby in 1947’s The Road to Rio (costarring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour).
In that film they demonstrate not only their unique harmony, but the fact that they could dance move and in unison. The trio and Bing sing You Don’t Have to Know the Language, and it’s a fitting title because in any language the sisters made an impact.
Their first hit song was 1937’s Bei Mir Bist Du Schon, an old Yiddish song. Their rendition of Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me, became an anthem of War World II soldiers.
Patty, Maxene and La Verne. Everyone knew them by their first names, but only if they were together. Never mind that they didn’t always get along, and thanks to continual quarrels about money and other matters, they did not perform as a group in later years. The sad fact is that now they’re all gone.
Luckily, because the Andrew Sisters they made films (17 in all), we have a record of them at their peak. So, we can fully understand why they had the impact they did.