Today is the birthday of British music hall and radio comedian Sandy Powell (1900-1982). His early music hall years often featured his parody of a Scottish vaudeville comedian, in which he would appear in full kilt regalia. He was also well known for a ventriloquism routine, in which the dummy fell apart. From 1929 to 1942, while still maintaining his stage career, he made a series of popular comedy records. Sometimes during this period his comedy partner was Gracie Fields. Later, the young singer Jimmy Fletcher was his stooge. In the 30s he began to work on radio and in films, and his line “Can you hear me, Mother?” became a national catchphrase. He was still a popular figure in radio, theatre, and television even in his last years.
Here’s a funny clip from the 1948 film Cup Tie Honeymoon
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.