Today is the anniversary of the release date of the great musical comedy film Palmy Days (1931) starring Eddie Cantor, Charlotte Greenwood and the Goldwyn Girls (Toby Wing, Betty Grable, Paulette Godard and Virginia Grey among them). Produced by Sam Goldwyn, it was directed by Eddie Sutherland, with choreography by Busby Berkley.
This might be my favorite Eddie Cantor vehicle. It starts out with a fantasia at a large bakery where all the workers are girls and they have their own trainer (Greenwood) who gives them daily calisthenics. (Wow! I’ve had DREAMS like that!)
The plot is set in motion when the factory owner (Spencer Charles) visits a phony psychic played by one of my favorite character actors Charles Middleton (whose birthday it is today. Read more about him here). Eddie plays his assistant, naturally we get a lengthy set piece featuring Eddie screwing up a séance. Later he is instructed to go see the factory owner about something (to make a “prediction” come true). He ends up getting hired as an efficiency expert. Along the way he falls for the factory owner’s daughter (Barbara Weeks). The lady trainer loves him. And the crooked swami is trying to rob the bakery, which Eddie finally thwarts. In the end, because he is the comedian I guess, he hooks up with Greenwood instead of Weeks.
The joy of the journey are the songs and dance numbers, of which one of my all time favorites is the zippy, zany “Yes! Yes!” It starts about a minute into this scene. It shows in Cantor in full form — the way he was in vaudeville and Broadway shows:
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 Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc. To learn 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.