Since my earlier post about Dorothy Dandridge’s version of “Cow Cow Boogie,” I’ve been continuing to look around for information about the Abbott and Costello film Ride ’em Cowboy (for which “Cow Cow Boogie” was written), and it’s turning out to be another interesting case of an intersection of western narrative and African American performance. Produced in 1942, Ride ’em Cowboy has the distinction of being jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald‘s first film role.
Fitzgerald was already famous as a singer. In 1938, she adapted the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” into a song, which sold a million copies and stayed number one on the charts for several weeks. Given her association with the song, it’s not surprising that she also performed it in Ride em Cowboy.
In this clip, Fitzgerald sings “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” while riding on a bus with her fellow ranch workers, as they are heading to the dude ranch where much of the film takes place. Look for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello on the outside of the bus, hanging on to the rear door (which doesn’t prevent them from joining in on the chorus).