Today is the birthday of Star of Vaudeville #112: Eddie Cantor (for my complete biographical article on this giant of stage, screen and broadcasting go here). Many contemporary people complain that they don’t “get” Cantor and that they don’t see his appeal. I’m a huge fan, but I also acknowledge that I am an odd duck in that regard. The more arcane and dated something is, the more I like it. And I also think that Cantor lost his way somewhat later in his career; you don’t see as much of what made him “him”. And what is that? There is no better example of it that than this number, which captures his personality in a nutshell. Modern audiences are more apt to know the Sinatra version, but Cantor’s is the original, first and best (it’s the title song from the 1928 Broadway show and 1930 film in which he starred). The tempo of the film version seems a bit slow and Cantor’s choreography a bit static, possible due to the clunkiness of early sound technology (it’s also in Technicolor–very early!). But Cantor’s performance is hysterical. It’s already made this an excellent day for me.
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.