Alice Barker was a chorus line dancer during the Harlem Renaissance of the the 1930s and 40s. She danced at clubs such as The Apollo, Cotton Club, and Zanzibar Club, with legends including Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Although she danced in numerous movies, commercials and TV shows, she had never seen any of them, and all of her photographs and memorabilia had been lost over the years.
After years of searching we found three “Soundies” Alice appeared in and were finally able to show them to her — Alice Barker had never seen herself in motion in her life!
If you’d like to send Alice Barker fan mail we would love to see her get the adoration she deserves after so many years! (We’ll do our best to read some of your comments to her as well.):
c/o Brookly Gardens (formerly the Bishop Henry B. Hucles Episcopal Nursing Home)
835 Herkimer Street
All of Alice Barker’s films from this video are collected here: https://youtu.be/rpg5D0AAA2w
For more info about the dancers of the Harlem Renaissance, we recommend the lovely documentary “Been Rich All My Life” —several of the women in the film danced with Alice back in the day!
A little more about the who’s who here: “We” are friends of Alice who searched for the films and made this video. I’m David Shuff, a volunteer who visits the home with my therapy dog Katie, and have known Alice for 8 years. The woman in the video is Gail Campbell, a recreation therapist (and an amazing one at that!). She never gave up on finding Alice’s films, and uncovered the first piece of the puzzle that lead to us finding them — which was Alicia Thompson; a historian of black female performers who had been looking for Alice for years (her site is http://forclassicmovieloversonly.trip… and her YouTube channel is “MusicandDancing4Ever”). She told us that Alice was in films called ‘soundies’.
Using that clue I found jazz historian Mark Cantor of http://jazz-on-film.com and he was able to send us three of Alice’s soundies from his collection. Shortly afterwards Alicia got us a few more films.
This video was filmed on cellphones (and almost as an afterthought!) by my friends Darin Tatum and Tom Hunt. We’re so thrilled that it’s brought so much joy to everyone and attention to Alice, who is loving it! Thank you all!