Winding up the Nazis, Lambeth Walk style!
The following is an excerpt from Weirder War Two by Richard Denham and Michael Jecks.
Viral hits don’t belong solely to the age of YouTube and the Internet. The Lambeth Walk is one of the most memorable songs of the wartime era, from the 1937 West-End hit Me and My Girl. The song inspired its own dance craze, a strutting cockney jig made famous by the hilarious Lupino Lane.
The Lambeth Walk craze swept the nation, with even King George VI himself joining in with the famous ‘Oi!’ and it crossed the Atlantic too. Britain’s paranoid Mass Observation Unit, which reported on the morale of the country, even devoted a chapter of their 1939 book to it. The song was also popular in Germany, much to the lament of die-hard Nazis.
The Ministry of Information used it for their own ends. One of their number, Charles A. Ridley, mockingly edited Leni Riefenstahl’s bombastic Nazi masterpiece, The Triumph of the Will, by humorously cutting the film. In his edit, Lambeth Walk – Nazi Style, the legions of soldiers are shown marching in time to the song. Their SS goose-steps fall perfectly in time with the music. The uncredited film was distributed to newsreel companies to do with as they pleased.
Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda saw Ridley’s cut. It is reported he was so furious that he stormed out of the room, kicking chairs, shouting and swearing. As a result, Ridley earned a place on the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. colloquially known as the Black Book, a list of people to be exterminated if Britain was conquered.
Perhaps the legacy of the song is perfectly summed up in The Times newspaper in 1938, ‘While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk.’
Take that, Gangnam Style!
Find out more about Weirder War Two by clicking here.