Syncopation (1929 film)

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Poster of Syncopation (1929 film).jpg
Film poster
Directed by Bert Glennon
Produced by Robert Kane (producer)
Joseph I. Schnitzer (executive producer)
Written by Frances Agnew (adaptation)
Paul S. Haschke (titles)
Based on Stepping High
by Gene Markey
Starring Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians
Barbara Bennett
Bobby Watson
Ian Hunter
Music by Richard Myers
Bud Green
Herman Ruby
Clifford Grey
Sammy Stept
Leo Robin
Cinematography Dal Clawson
George Webber
Ian Hunter
Edited by Edward Pfitzenmeier
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • March 24, 1929 (1929-03-24) (US)[1]
Running time
83 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,250,000[2]

Syncopation is a 1929 American musical film directed by Bert Glennon and starring Barbara Bennett, Bobby Watson, and Ian Hunter, although top billing went to Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians.

This was the second film produced by RKO Radio Pictures, but the first released by the studio, as the company's first produced film, Street Girl, was not released until August 1929. The film was made at the company's New York City studios[3] and is based on the novel Stepping High by Gene Markey. The film was heavily marketed on its release, being the first film to be broadcast over the radio, as well as being RKO's first sound musical,[citation needed] and was a significant success.[4]

This film was the first made in the RCA Photophone sound-on-film process, and was an important test for Radio Corporation of America, which had invested heavily in the newly created RKO.


Benny and Flo are a husband and wife dance team, Sloane and Darrel, traveling around the country as part of a revue. The revue gets picked up and taken to New York City, to be on Broadway. However, it quickly folds, and the two are forced to look for other employment. They eventually find work in a nightclub, becoming famous.

While performing at the nightclub, Flo becomes entranced by a young, sophisticated millionaire playboy, Winston. Swayed by his sweet words, Flo leaves Benny, and finds another dancing partner, who she pairs with in another revue, this one financed by Winston. However, her new act is a flop, and when Winston offers to take her to Europe, but is unwilling to marry her, she realizes the mistake she's made. She repents and returns to Benny, who takes her back and re-establishes their act, going back on the road.



  • "Jericho" – Leo Robin, Richard Myers[5]
  • "Mine Alone" – Herman Ruby, Richard Myers[5]
  • "Do Something" – Bud Green, Sammy Stept[5]
  • "I'll Always Be in Love With You" – Bud Green, Sammy Stept[5]


  • Syncopation was shot in New York City. When the film opened at the New York Hippodrome, it had a run of two weeks, during which time it broke the records for that theater for a film.[5]
  • Syncopation marked Dorothy Lee's screen debut.[6]
  • Although they had top billing, Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians only appeared in two scenes in the film.[5]
  • RKO would only release 12 films in 1929, its inaugural year, and this was its first release.[5]


  1. ^ "Syncopation: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  2. ^ "FILM WORLD". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 19 October 1934. p. 2. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Barrios, p. 83
  4. ^ Barrios, p. 83-84
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 20. ISBN 0-517-546566. 
  6. ^ Parish, James Robert. The Glamour Girls. Rainbow Books. p. 41. ISBN 0895080028. 


  • Barrios, Richard. A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film. Oxford University Press, 2010.

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