A Vitaphone double header tonight! I’ve been going to these annual programs organized by Ron Hutchinson of the Vitaphone Project for years. Ron was very helpful to me in the early stages of researching my book.  Not coincidentally,  the VERY early days of talkies and the very LATE days of vaudeville overlapped. Ironically, Warner Bros.’ Vitaphones helped preserve the very acts of the vaudeville performers they were replacing. The privately run Vitaphone project exists to locate and preserve these early talkies, and has had amazing success, providing a valuable public service. Ron’s accomplished amazing things that major not-profits have either ignored or didn’t have the resources to take on…and simply because he saw a need and devoted his life to addressing it. Without being schmaltzy (which Ron would probably hate), let’s just say it’s a lesson in how to live your life.

Tonight at Film Forum, Ron will be presenting 10 of these Vitaphone Varieties (including a tap-dancing harpist and some “Rodeo Flappers”), as well as an early Hollywood musical called Moonlight and Pretzels. I’ll be there! For full details go here.

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



  1. […] The family formed an act out of the Gumm Sisters, with Ethel as manager. They toured for a couple of years, then, in 1927, made the Los Angeles area their new home base, in the obvious hope that they’d get into pictures. Their first big break was a 1928 booking in the Meglin Kiddie’s Review at Loew’s State Theatre. “Baby” Gumm was by now the star of the act and was doing solo numbers and a Fanny Brice impression by this point. The act played all over the west, did shots on radio and Vitaphone shorts. […]


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