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The Duke Is Tops (1938)/ Lost film

June 3rd, 2012 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · 1930's, Lost film, Oregon arranger, Oregon film, Oregon film new definition

The Duke Is Tops stars Ralph Cooper and Lena Horne, and is Lena Horne’s first feature. After Lena’s success in Stormy Weather in 1943, The Duke Is Tops was re-released as Bronze Venus (1944), with her name moved above the title.

You can see it online.

The Duke Is Tops was Phil Moore’s first screen credit. He was 20 years old when he arranged the score for this all black musical.

Phil Moore (February 20, 1918 – May 13, 1987) came to Los Angeles from his hometown of Portland by way of Seattle, where he had studied composition at Cornish School of Art and University of Washington.  A jazz pianist, in Portland he had played with Louis Richardson’s Rinky Dink Orchestra in the Albina Hall (now The Secret Society). Throughout his career, he collaborated with countless jazz singers as an arranger, band leader, and recording artist.

When Phil Moore arrived in LA in 1938, he was joining fellow Portland jazz musicians Mel Blanc and Del Porter, and Portland classical violinist Louis Kaufman. All four artists were following in the footsteps of Portland jazz bandleader George Olsen.

I hereby claim The Duke Is Tops as an Oregon film on the basis of Phil Moore’s contribution as arranger.


I learned about Moore from Robert Dietsche’s book Jumptown: The Golden Years Of Portland Jazz, 1942 – 1957.

Please note! Portland NEVER had a “Jumptown” neighborhood. The jazz clubs he writes about were centered around Williams Avenue, and the neighborhood was called “Williams Avenue”. NOT Jumptown. Dietsche never meant to convey that Jumptown was the neighborhood name. His book title has been misconstrued as such, and the name “Jumptown” seems to be hopelessly on its way to becoming a false legend, and untrue fact about Portland.

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