Stars of Vaudeville #877: Charles King

Posted in Broadway, Hollywood (History), Movies, Singers, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of (stage and, briefly screen) star Charles King (1886-1944. Some sources say born 1889).

Not to be confused with the western villain of the same name, THIS Charles “Charlie” King was born in New York and started out in minstrelsy and vaudeville before working his way up to Broadway in The Mimic World (1908). King was in over two dozen shows, including editions of The Passing Show and George White’s Scandals and George M. Cohan’s Little Nellie Kelly (1922), which made him a bona fide stage star.

Film buffs know him from his very brief stint as a star of MGM musicals: The Broadway Melody (1929), The Hollywood Revue of 1929, and Chasing Rainbows (1930) are all still shown from time to time. But after 1930 his day as a leading man in features was already done. This is often blamed on the passing of the early talkie vogue for musicals, but it goes deeper than that. I’ve seen all three of those movies; King can sing and he’s good looking, but his appeal is limited — he’s not such a convincing screen actor. And I notice that his last starring part is in a drama (Remote Control, 1930), so he was plainly TRIED at non-musicals. At any rate, the stage welcomed him back with open arms and he performed there and in night clubs until his early death in 1944 of pneumonia. (He was performing in London at the time — murder by climate!)

The Broadway Melody has terrific vaudeville/ tin pan alley scenes. Here’s Charles King at work:

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.

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Laurel and Hardy in “One Good Turn”

Posted in Comedy, Comedy Teams, Hollywood (History), Laurel and Hardy, Movies with tags , , , , on October 31, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release of the Laurel and Hardy comedy short One Good Turn (1931).

This is one of the few of their films I’ve seen that deals with the Great Depression, then at its depths. They are two itinerants, camping out. Laurel burns down their tent, and then disposes of the last of their food (soup) by pouring it on the fire. This is after he had attempted to extinguish the blaze one cup of water at a time (an old Arbuckle gag). To add to the absurdity of the moment, the pump appears to have been conveniently locate in the middle of a pond full of water.

They go a-begging at an old woman’s house (Mary Carr). She feeds them. Whilst they eat (and pour coffee into each other’s laps), they overhear her and her friend Jimmy Finlayson rehearsing a melodrama and mistake the exchange for reality. They go out to raise $100 (for her mortgage payment, they think) by attempting to auction off their car. A drunk (Billy Gilbert) bids the necessary sum, but Laurel spoils the moment when he announces the time (“1:25!”) to an old man who asks. Later Hardy finds a wallet full of money left in Laurel’s pocket by the drunk. They two tussel and the car collapses into pieces. Hardy forces him to return what he thinks is stolen money to the old lady. When the truth comes out, Laurel is furious and goes into a rare frenzy, chasing after Hardy with an ax, collapsing a garage on top of him, and bouncing firewood off his head!

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

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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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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Lola Montez

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Lola Montez, Daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes (1851)

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The Golem

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

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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

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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.

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