Trav S.D.’s 10 Best Vaudeville Films

Well we just heard that a vaudeville team called “Sight and Sound” came out with its new poll of the 100 best movies of all time, and, as has been the case in recent years, there is a certain amount of upset and uproar concerning the films that made the list and how they were ranked.

Personally I have no problem with the new list, and by definition, neither should you. Why do I say “by definition”? Because it is a POLL. It contains hundreds of points of view, contributed by people of diverse perspectives from all over the world. Would my personal list be different? Yes, but that doesn’t somehow make it the correct one. It just makes it mine. As it happens, I’ve only even seen slightly more than half of the films that made the list, and of those that I have seen, there are plenty (a couple of dozen at least) I wouldn’t even include in my own top 100. Many of them seem frivolous to me, or reflective of inertia and conservatism (not in the political sense, but the intellectual one, a clinging). If it comes to that, I never thought Vertigo belonged on the list at all, let alone the top spot. My top choice for a Hitchcock film (for somewhere on the list, not the top spot) would be The Birds. And of course I think Citizen Kane belongs on the list, but remaining in the top spot so long smacked of ossification, in the old French Academy sense. I’d never even heard of the movie that took first place this year, but it sounds like the kind of thing I would love a great deal, so I intend to watch it at the first opportunity. And I was thrilled that Barbara Loden’s Wanda (which I wrote about here) made the list; it absolutely belongs there. My takeaway from the result is that I need to catch up, and familiarize myself with the movies I don’t know. Polls are democratic. The point of them is to hear everyone’s voices. There are some powerful voices we have heard more than enough of already.

Conversely, though, my blog is about my voice. That’s why, again by definition, I’m not interested in hearing, let alone incorporating anyone else’s point of view about what should be expressed here. Often I’ll publish a piece, and I’ll hear from people, “You left out X” or whatever. My honest and frank reply is, “Um, who asked ya?” I never said this was a dialogue. Go ahead and write your own article from your own perspective. I might even read it, enjoy it, and learn from it. But HERE, I include what I wish to include, full stop. Why on EARTH would I write a piece expressing YOUR point of view? Yet that nonsense happens almost daily. It seems massively illogical to me, but that appears to be the expectation, that somehow the writer will magically write what the reader wants and expects to read. I don’t know what in life actually might fulfill that. A video game? A prostitute? A private chef?

With profiles of ca. 1,800 vaudeville performers, and thousands of relevant show biz articles pertaining to circus, burlesque, cinema, the legitimate stage, etc, I make bold to declare Travalanche the most complete biographical resource of its kind anywhere. Others may be more accurate and thorough as to this particular or that, and certainly more scholarly, but in a general way, overall, Travalanche paints the most complete portrait. And that’s what it is: not a database, not a swap meet, a portrait, by an individual.

Haha, and now you’re going, “And what about the promised “Ten Best Vaudeville Films” I signed up for based on your deceptive headline?” Yes, here, in no particular order, is a list of ten movies with vaudeville settings which you might enjoy. Those who haven’t seen them might want to check them out. I, unlike the BFI, am not taking a poll, about what films you’d add to such a list.

These are all films from the classic Hollywood era. Some are better than others as to facts, for they too are portraits, but I think we can say that at the very least they all capture the spirit of their subjects. Click on the links to read more about the film.

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

April Showers (1948)

For Me and My Gal (1942)

The Seven Little Foys (1955)

The Jolson Story (1946)

Look for the Silver Lining (1949)

Lillian Russell (1940)

Shine On, Harvest Moon (1944)

Gypsy (1962)

Give My Regards to Broadway (1948)

And here are some links to some other relevant lists on Travalanche you might enjoy:

A Comprehensive Survey of Show Business Bio-Pics

In Which I Rank the Silent Comedians

The Best Comic Drunks

Films of the Marx Brothers, Ranked

The Films of Mae West, Ranked

For more on vaudeville history, please read  No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous