Mae West’s First Movie: “Night After Night”

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mae West, Movies with tags , , , , , on October 30, 2014 by travsd

night-after-night-mae-west-left-1932-everett

Today marks the anniversary of the release date of the first movie in which Mae West appeared, Night After Night (1932).

As you can see from the poster, she’s fourth billed in the picture, her presence there at all the result of her pal George Raft’s lobbying the studio (Paramount) on her behalf. Mae’s performance in the film is an object lesson for all of us: baby, when you get your big chance, do NOT blow it. West knew this was her one opportunity, and she picked up the ball and ran with it. She blazes across the screen as Raft’s ex-girlfriend Maudie, owner of a string of beauty parlors who gradually becomes fast friends with the gangster’s teacher, played by Allison Skipworth. The main plot is about Raft’s romance with a confused, depressed society girl played by Constance Cummings. Mae turns her minor role into a star turn, full of piss and vinegar.  She’s determined to make her mark and she does. She re-wrote her lines to suit her character, and they’re hilarious. She’s only in a few scenes, but she made such a huge impression that she immediately got signed to a contract. Her first starring vehicle was the smash hit She Done Him Wrong, which rapidly made Mae Paramount’s biggest earner. Overnight she became one of the highest paid women in the country. But it all started with Night After Night. Here’s a clip.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Laurel and Hardy in “Our Relations”

Posted in Comedy, Comedy Teams, Hollywood (History), Laurel and Hardy, Movies with tags , , , , , on October 30, 2014 by travsd

Our-Relations-Poster

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Laurel and Hardy feature Our Relations (1936).

While still farcical this is one of the team’s more sophisticated plots – – essentially The Comedy of Errors. In the film, the comedians each play a pair of brothers: a couple of henpecked husbands, and their twins, a pair of less domesticated, trouble-prone sailors. The domestic Laurel and Hardy are under the impression that their no-good brothers were hanged, leaving them all the more nonplussed when the brothers arrive in their town and start causing confusion. It is a most enjoyable ride. Long time Laurel and Hardy fans will appreciate the presence of Jimmy Finlayson and Daphne Pollard in the cast. Movie buffs will also recognize Alan Hale (senior) and Sidney Toler. 

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Lola Montez (1821 – 1861) – Portaits

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Dance, Women with tags on October 30, 2014 by travsd

travsd:

Much more to follow on this lady from yours truly in the months to come!

Originally posted on Photographs, film, literature & qoutes from the bygone era:

Lola Montez or Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld,  was an Irish courtesan, actress and dancer – she became famous as the “Spanish dancer.

Her friends, lovers, and clients included Franz List, Alexandre Dumas and King Ludwig I.

In 1851, she came to the United States and in San Francisco, first performed her notorious “Spider Dance”—in which she pretended to be bitten by a spider, flailing and wiggling in a way calculated to induce maximum lust in the mostly male audience

King Ludwig I of Bavaria made her Countess of Landsfeld. She used her influence to institute liberal reforms. At the start of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, she was forced to flee. She proceeded to the United States via Switzerland, France and London, returning to her work as an entertainer and lecturer.

lola montez5

Lola Montez

via

Lola_Montez_-_1851

Lola Montez, Daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes (1851)

via

de.wikipedia.org

View original 23 more words

The Golem

Posted in Horror (Mostly Gothic), Jews/ Show Biz, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

002-the-golem-theredlist

Today (just in time for Halloween) is the anniversary of the original German premiere of the pathbreaking silent horror classic Der Golem, wie er die Welt kam (1920).

The film is the third part of a Golem trilogy, co-directed and co-written by its star Paul Wegener. Adapted from Jewish folklore (by way of a novel by Gustave Meyrink), the film has much in common with German Expressionist classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — one looks at it and sees a visual and thematic antecedent to everything from Frankenstein to The Mummy. Plus it has these amazing cultural overtones, rare for a film of its time. Set in the Jewish ghetto of Prague during medieval times, the film opens on a rabbi bringing the titular clay monster to life with kabbalistic magic…very scary, he calls up a devil, and receives a magic word. The creature, which resembles a 7 foot tall toddler, is supposed to stop the Emperor’s pogrom. He does indeed terrorize the Emperor and his minions, literally bringing down the roof at the very moment when they have the gall to laugh at a magically conjured vision of the 40 years wandering. Unfortunately, the rabbi begins to lose control of his creature. The golem runs amok and starts to tear apart the ghetto. He throws the fey messenger-knight (who has been bedding the rabbi’s daughter) off the roof. In the end, he picks up a sweet little girl (presaging a similar scene in Frankenstein). But she innocently takes the magic word off his chest making him go back to clay.

For more in early film history don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etcchain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Will Rogers in “The Ropin’ Fool”

Posted in AMERICANA, Comedians, Comedy, Crackers, Hollywood (History), Lariat Artists/ Wild West Shows, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

imgres

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the 1922 Hal Roach short The Ropin’ Fool, starring the great Will Rogers (see my full bio on him here)  A lot of people know Rogers as a performer or a monologist, a columnist, as a radio star and/or a star of early talkies. I’m willing to bet that not many know that this highly talkative man was also in SILENT films (at least for a while). In The Ropin’ Fool, Rogers shows off some of the skills that first made him a star of wild west shows and vaudeville: Music is by our old buddy Ben Model:

Don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etcchain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Eddie Cantor and Gypsy Rose Lee in “Ali Baba Goes to Town”

Posted in Comedy, Eddie Cantor, Hollywood (History), Movies with tags , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

Ali_Baba_Goes_to_Town

Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Eddie Cantor comedy Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937).

This movie, while plenty funny, marks the end of Cantor’s flush period as a 30’s comedy star. After having starred in a talkie every year since 1930, the next movie after Al Baba wouldn’t be for three years, and thereafter his vehicles became less and less frequent. By this stage in his career Cantor was waxing stout and middle aged – – his traditional character didn’t suit him as well any more.

Ali Baba is essentially a remake of Cantor’s earlier stage and screen hit Roman Scandals, except in this one (rather than ancient Rome) Eddie falls asleep as a movie extra on a film set for Arabian Nights and awakes as Ali Baba. The film is not a font of racial sensitivity—in addition to the constant lampoon of Arab culture, Cantor indulges in some very late blackface. But the jokes and music are good, and the plot moves along. Lots of rare topical humor at the EXPENSE of the New Deal as Eddie tries to remake the Sultan’s government. An eye-opener…criticisms about high taxes!  There were five writers on the project – – all Republicans, I’m guessing!

aliroselee1

Gypsy Rose Lee is also in the film as the Sultana, in only her second role as an attempted movie star under her real name Louise Hovick. Though I am naturally among her worshippers, it’s not hard to see why she never became a movie star (though a highly intelligent woman, she couldn’t, um, act. Whereas her siser June havoc could).

Also in the film – -wow! : crooner Tony Martin, John Carradine (as a thug), Douglas Dumbrille (as a Prince), Sidney Fields, Charles Lane, Jeni Le Gon, Hank Mann and Lee J. Cobb in bit parts, and dozens of the top stars of 1937 in cameos at a fictional movie premiere — including, hilariously enough, Eddie Cantor!

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Century of Slapstick #53: Gentlemen of Nerve

Posted in Century of Slapstick, Charlie Chaplin, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

 tumblr_nbditnK2hC1ta2k58o4_500

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the release date of the Charlie Chaplin/ Keystone comedy Gentlemen of Nerve. This is one of what I call the ad hoc/ improv type silent comedies, shot at an actual car race. There is a nice feeling of ensemble in this little comedy, a confidence that bespeaks a gang of comedians that have been playing together for several months are just now coming into their own creatively.

Chester Conklin and Mabel Normand play a couple who come to watch the car race. As soon as they sit down in the stands, Chester starts flirting with a homely woman in a crazy hat (Phyllis Allen). Mabel pulls his nose to get him to stop. Meanwhile Chaplin and Mack Swain tussle about trying to enter the track. They shake hands. Then they try to sneak in through the fence. Whereupon Swain gets stuck. Charlie goes under his legs and through. A Keystone Kop  helps Mack out. Then Chaplin begins flirting with Mabel, pushing Conklin out of the way. By the end of the film, with much fooling around in between, Chaplin winds up with TWO girls.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,486 other followers

%d bloggers like this: