Gayle Strawberry and Her Soda Pop Music Makers by Jim Boston | Script Revolution

Gayle Strawberry and Her Soda Pop Music Makers

It's the summer of 1942, and a Los Angeles teenager starts her own swing band in the hopes of entering it in the first annual National Swing Contest.



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It's early September 1942, and a Black Los Angeles teenager starts her own swing band after hearing a radio commercial touting the first annual National Swing Contest.

Sixteen-year-old GAYLE STRAWBERRY, known for wearing her heart on her sleeve, gets started looking for musicians in spite of the skepticism the rest of her family- brother EARL, father FRED, and mother BERNIECE- exhibits.

Gayle's first find is none other than fellow Manual Arts High School student (and best buddy and fellow ivory tickler) DAGMAR JOHANNSSEN, a playful ham who loves to mimic celebrities. Together, the twosome use a "Calling All Girls" flyer to attract talent and manage to assemble a swing band that starts rehearsing by the end of the school week.

What emerges is a predominantly White band whose key sidewomen, besides Dagmar, include outspoken-and-aggressive trombonist MARJORIE DEARDOURFF; multiinstrumentalist NORMA JEANNE TRETIAK, a studious, energetic girl who also becomes the band's arranger; and guitarist VIVIENNE CAMPBELL-MCDOUGALL, a snob who leads an early- and short-lived- insurrection after meeting Gayle.

Gayle's band doesn't land its first performance until Halloween...the night of Manual Arts' Homecoming dance. It doesn't work out: The band receives a lukewarm reaction. The day after the dance, Dagmar comes up with a solution that helps turn the band around: Bring in a featured vocalist. And the resulting audition yields a rather cute-looking boy named ANDY SALKELD.

Andy arrives in time for Manual Arts High School Night at Tinseltown's Danceland Ballroom, where Gayle and Co. sneak onto the bandstand while STAN WILLIAMS AND HIS SWING KINGS take a break.

It works: Gayle's outfit attracts the attention of KIT (the radio station of the National Swing Contest ad), which advances the band $200 and enters the aggregation in the contest, to be held in New York City on the first day of 1943.

Things are looking up for the Soda Pop Music Makers, starting with a rousing three-night, mid-December engagement at the Orpheum Theater...but then an argument between Dagmar and her mother MARTA, a failed concert pianist who doesn't like swing, escalates to the point where Dagmar runs away, only to get hit by a car.

Blaming herself for the accident, Gayle visits Dagmar in the hospital and offers to use the money from the radio station to help pay for her buddy's surgery. That effort gets a "thumbs down" from Marjorie, Norma Jeanne, and Dagmar herself. In fact, Norma Jeanne volunteers to fill in for Dagmar on second piano...if Gayle will "stop talking crazy and lead us to New York."

The band gets to New York City, all right...only to find PETE JACKSON and FOSTER J. NIGGELING, two executives whose companies sponsor the National Swing Contest, denying the Soda Poppers their spot in the competition over the executives' fears of a Black bandleader in charge of a mainly White band.

Heated (and, at times, violent) discussion results...and leads to Foster changing his mind and deciding to let Gayle's band back in the contest. Gayle's Soda Pop Music Makers win it all, all right...and make converts out of Fred, Berniece, and Earl, in addition to dedicating their win to Dagmar.

Submitted: October 8, 2019
Last Updated: October 12, 2021

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Jim Boston's picture

The Writer: Jim Boston

I first got interested in screenwriting as a college student in 1979 (Iowa State University); an additional impetus was the paperback version of the "American Graffiti" screenplay. From 1980 to 1994, I pursued screenwriting with a vengeance...but other things happened in my life. Since 2016, I've been back chasing the dream...and it's only because I inherited a Power Mac from one of the codirectors (Nick Holle) of a documentary I was in: "The Entertainers," about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival. (Nick received the computer from the husband-and-wife couple who helped produce the film, Brent and Jackie Watkins.) The Power Mac has a copy of Final Draft 6... Go to bio

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