Archive for October, 2014

Charles King

Posted in Broadway, Hollywood (History), Movies, Singers, Stars of Vaudeville, 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 Alison 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 Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Dance, Women with tags on October 30, 2014 by travsd

Much more to follow on this lady from yours truly in the months to come!

FROM THE BYGONE

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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Eddie Cantor and Gypsy Rose Lee in “Ali Baba Goes to Town”

Posted in Comedy, Eddie Cantor, Hollywood (History), Movies with tags , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Eddie Cantor comedy Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937).

This movie, while plenty funny, marks the end of Cantor’s flush period as a 30’s comedy star. After having starred in a talkie every year since 1930, the next movie after Al Baba wouldn’t be for three years, and thereafter his vehicles became less and less frequent. By this stage in his career Cantor was waxing stout and middle aged – – his traditional character didn’t suit him as well any more.

Ali Baba is essentially a remake of Cantor’s earlier screen hit Roman Scandals, except in this one (rather than ancient Rome) Eddie falls asleep as a movie extra on a film set for Arabian Nights and awakes as Ali Baba. The film is not a font of racial sensitivity—in addition to the constant lampoon of Arab culture, Cantor indulges in some very late blackface. But the jokes and music are good, and the plot moves along. Lots of rare topical humor at the EXPENSE of the New Deal as Eddie tries to remake the Sultan’s government. An eye-opener…criticisms about high taxes!  There were five writers on the project – – all Republicans, I’m guessing!

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Gypsy Rose Lee is also in the film as the Sultana, in only her second role as an attempted movie star under her real name Louise Hovick. Though I am naturally among her worshippers, it’s not hard to see why she never became a movie star (though a highly intelligent woman, she couldn’t, um, act. Whereas her siser June havoc could).

Also in the film – -wow! : crooner Tony Martin, John Carradine (as a thug), Douglas Dumbrille (as a Prince), Sidney Fields, Charles Lane, Jeni Le Gon, Hank Mann and Lee J. Cobb in bit parts, and dozens of the top stars of 1937 in cameos at a fictional movie premiere — including, hilariously enough, Eddie Cantor!

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. 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.

 

Arbuckle, Keaton and St. John in “Coney Island”

Posted in BROOKLYN, Buster Keaton, Comedy, Coney Island, Fatty Arbuckle, Hollywood (History), 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 Comique comedy Coney Island (1917).

In this classic comedy short, Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton and Al St. John take turns dating the same girl (Alice Mann) at Coney Island (despite the fact that Arbuckle’s character is married). Inevitably Arbuckle winds up going in drag in a woman’s bathing suit. In addition to priceless period footage of Coney’s Luna Park in its heyday, this film offers the sight of Keaton doing an impressive blackflip, and — even more exotic — crying!

 

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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