Georgie Price (born this day in 1901) was one of the great singer/comedian/ entertainers of the sort they don’t make any more, cut from the same cloth as Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, and Harry Richman — all of whom he did impressions of. He started out in a Gus Edwards kiddie act. When he graduated to long pants he was famously hired by the Shuberts as a replacement for Jolson, and then stiffed by them when Jolson returned to the fold (although Price managed to serve out the balance of his contract). He starred in big time vaudeville, becoming a staple of the Palace throughout the 20s and early 30s. He starred in a half dozen Vitaphone shorts, then left show business in 1934 to become a stock broker. He always kept a hand in, though, serving as president of AGVA (the American Guild of Variety Artists), and making the occasional appearance at benefits and on television. He passed away in 1964,
Ron Hutchison of the Vitaphone Project had the good fortune to meet Price’s daughter and has been generous enough to share his account:
“I became interested in [Price] after hearing the soundtrack to his 1929 Vitaphone short DON’T GET NERVOUS. It is set in the actual Brooklyn studios and has Georgie arriving there to make a short. He is very nervous and tells the director, Bryan Foy (of the Seven Little Foys) that he needs a real audience in order to perform. Foy obliges, and Georgie sings several songs in a rich voice that reminds you of a combination of Jolson and Cantor. In the early 1990’s we were able to get the short restored and seen again by audiences.
I tracked down Georgie’s daughter, Penny Price, in New Hope, PA and was able to let her see this short as well as several others Georgie made in the thirties. She was thrilled, and shared many stories of her father. Penny has long performed on the stage in musical comedy, and her brother Peter made several films in the fifties, including THE GREAT CARUSO.
One of Georgie’s other early shorts, STATION B.U.N.K, made in Camden in 1929 and released by Columbia, is currently being restored by The Library of Congress. In it, he imitates Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson. The Schuberts actually hired Price to fill in if Jolson became sick or too
His daughter told me a great story about Georgie’s friend Bert Wheeler. After Georgie died in 1964, Bert came by to offer Penny his condolences. Bert was going through financially lean times. As he turned to leave, Bert asked if he might have one of Georgie’s suits, as they were the same size. Then he asked for his shoes. Penny said that by the time Bert left, he even took Georgie’s underwear!”
Now, here’s Georgie in the Vitaphone short, “Don’t Get Nervous”
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.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy 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 etc