Tucker frequented Harlem music clubs and was a regular at the Savoy Ballroom. He built his reputation by exhibiting his odd style of dance, which involved a great deal of hip motion. The snakehips dates back to southern plantations before emancipation.
Riding this wave of popularity, in 1930 he appeared in Benny Rubin‘s 16-minute short film “Crazy House“, a comedic introduction to residents at the fictitious “Lame Brain Sanitarium”. Tucker’s 2-minute dance number, performed in a shiny white shirt and shiny, baggy gold pants, displays his amazing dance innovations, his style a precursor to modern street and stage dance. Interestingly, his name appears in the opening credits only as “Snake Hips”. Similar moves would later inspire an element of hip-hop culture known as breakdancing or even Michael Jackson’s “Moon Walk.”
Here’s a video of Mr. Snakehips:
In 1935, Tucker appeared in a short film called Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life. The film was based around a Duke Ellington composition and included clips of Ellington composing, as well as Billie Holiday singing and Tucker doing the snakehips.
Photo credit: 1) IMBD via source. 2) Youtube.