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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Wonderland Burlesque's Let's All Go To The Movies: All The Word's A Stage - Part 1 of 12

Wonderland Burlesque's 
Let's All Go To The Movies: 
All The World's A Stage
Part 1 of 12

Today, we kick off a twelve-part series of posts dealing with show business, be it stage or soundstage.

Yes, show people, their tawdry little lives - in the theatre or movie studio - in all their glory, projected up there on the big screen, bigger than life; and they wouldn't have it any other way. For you see, they live for the stuff; the imitation glamor, the insufferable players, the exhausting rehearsals, and the oh-so important reviews - but above all else - they do it for the applause.

So let the curtain rise on yet another series - for the next eight Let's All Go To The Movies posts, all the world is, indeed, a stage!

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Show People

Colonel Pepper brings his daughter Peggy from Georgia to Hollywood to be an actress. There she meets Billy who gets her work at Comet Studio doing comedies with him. But Peggy is discovered by High Art Studio and she leaves Billy and Comet to work there. For her new image, she is now Patricia Pepoire and ignores Billy when she sees hm on location. When she is not longer wanted by 'the little people' who fail to understand her 'art', she plans on marrying Andre in order to get a fake title. But Billy will not let her go without a fight.

This American synchronized sound comedy was directed by King Vidor and was a starring vehicle for actress Marion Davies and actor William Haines. While the film has no audible dialog, it was released with a synchronized musical score with sound effects using both the sound-on-disc and sound-on-film process. 

The main character of Peggy Pepper, who becomes the self-important dramatic star, Patricia Pepoire, was based on the careers of silent divas Gloria Swanson and Mae Murray. When asked, Davies supposedly told Murray the character was based on Swanson and when Swanson asked, she told her it was based on Murray. The film is a comic romp for Davies whom Lucille Ball repeatedly cited as a major comedic influence. Ball's subsequent facial techniques and comic behaviors as seen in I Love Lucy are quite apparent in Davies' performance in this film.

James Murray, who had played the lead in The Crowd (1928), was director King Vidor's original choice for Marion Davies' love interest. However, Murray's alcoholism and depression made him unavailable, so William Haines was cast instead. This is the first time Marion Davies and William Haines starred in a film together. The two became close friends, and he was a frequent guest at William Randolph Hearst's estate, San Simeon. The screen duo remained friends until her death in 1961.

Marion Davis was not-so-quietly media magnate William Randolph Hearst's mistress and he was very protective of her. He was adamant that Davies not make this film (he preferred her in historical dramas), as he considered slapstick comedy to be beneath her talents and worried that it would damage her reputation. Hearst even tried to have the film canceled days before it was to go into production. Still, the power Hearst wielded was felt; in one slapstick scene, Hearst refused to have Davies hit in the face with a pie. Instead, he compromised with director King Vidor and allowed her to be squirted with seltzer water.

Marion Davis

The film has a remarkable number of cameo appearances from some of the top stars of the day, including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Norma Talmadge, Leatrice Joy, Lew Cody, Eleanor Boardman, and others. Many agreed to appear out of friendship with Davies, and out of fear of being blackballed in Hearst's many periodicals. 

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Show Girl

Alice White plays an aspiring dancer who fakes her own kidnapping as a publicity stunt. Her newfound fame causes trouble with her boyfriend, played by Charles Delaney. Will true love win out?

Based on the first of J. P. McEvoy's two Dixie Dugan novels, this American synchronized sound comedy-drama was directed by Alfred Santell and stars Alice White, Lee Moran, and Donald Reed. It was followed by a sequel, Show Girl in Hollywood (1930).

While the film has no audible dialog, it was released with a synchronized musical score with sound effects using the sound-on-disc Vitaphone process.

The film featured a theme song which was entitled She's One Sweet Show Girl and was composed by Ted Ward and Edward Crossman. The song Buy, Buy For Baby (Or Baby Will Bye Bye You), composed by Joseph Meyer and Irving Caesar, was also featured on the soundtrack.

The film was considered a lost film, with only the Vitaphone soundtrack still in existence. However, a print was discovered in an Italian film archive, Cineteca Italiana, in 2015. A restored version, with the original Vitaphone soundtrack synched to the print, screened at New York's Film Forum on October 25, 2016, marking the first time the film was publicly exhibited in 88 years The screening was introduced by Vitaphone Project founder Ron Hutchinson. The film eventually be released by Warner Home Video.

Alice White

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On With The Show

A musical advertised as the first 100% natural color, all-singing production. The plot concerns a wide-eyed former hatcheck girl who takes the place of a rebellious show star.

This pre-Code musical film produced by Warner Bros. was directed by Alan Crosland with Larry Ceballos and stars Joe E. Brown, Betty Compson,  Arthur Lake, Sally O'Neil, and Ethel Waters.

Filmed in two-color Technicolor, the film is noted as the first all-talkingall-color feature length film, and the second color film released by Warner Bros.; the first was the part color, part black-and-white musical The Desert Song (1929).

Josephine Huston sings Let Me Have My Dreams for both Betty Compson and Sally O'Neil, at various times in the production. Dubbing was not yet developed, so Huston sang the song off camera into a mike, while Compson and O'Neil mouthed the words in front of the camera.

This was the film debut of Ethel Waters. This early sound backstage movie made in 1929 demonstrates how African-American performers were treated on Broadway and in film during this period. The great Ethel Waters, who a few years later in 1933 would triumph at the Cotton Club with her rendition of Stormy Weather, is just another specialty act among many, singing two songs before the curtain. However, she doesn't figure in the story line at all. These stand-alone musical moments were specially designed this way so that they could be cut out of the picture when the film played in Southern states.

This was the first film Joe E. Brown made at Warner Brothers.

Although this film was produced in two-strip Technicolor, all existing prints are black-and-white. Although, approximately one minute of the original Technicolor footage was recently discovered and preserved.

The song classic Am I Blue?, as sung by Ethel Waters and written by Grant Clarke and Harry Akst, debuts in this film.

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The Girl In The Show

A traveling 'Tom Show' is stranded in Kansas after their manager steals what meager funds they have. Hattie Hartley (Bessie Love), who plays Little Eva in the production, decides to marry the local undertaker, so that he will fund the troupe and pay for her younger sister's schooling. On the day of the wedding, the troupe gets a surprise booking for a performance at the last minute and Hattie calls off the wedding so that she can play the role of Little Eva, an act which reunites her with her true love, a member of their troupe.

Produced and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, this American comedy was directed by Edgar Selwyn and written by Edgar Selwyn and Joseph Farnham. It stars Bessie Love, Raymond Hackett, Edward Nugent, Mary Doran, and Jed Prouty.

Traveling troupes of actors toured the country in various versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin called 'Tom Shows'. The truncated shows would cut the plot down to a few key scenes which featured the main characters - Uncle Tom, Simon Legree, Topsy, and Little Eva.

Bessie Love and Raymond Hackett

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The Best Pair Of Legs In The Business

With his life crumbling around him in a holiday camp which has seen better days, middle-aged female impersonator Sherry Sheridan stays rooted in the past, even though his career is dying, his agent dumps him, he's drinking heavily, his son won't have anything to do with him and his wife is having an affair. Will his son Alan,and long-suffering wife Mary, stay with him? Must the show go on?

This British comedy-drama film directed by Christopher Hodson and stars Reg Varney, Diana Coupland and Lee Montague. It was first produced and broadcast as part of a British television series before becoming a full-length motion picture.

Given Reg Varney's reputation, audiences came expecting laughs and got a lot of drama instead. Despite that disappointment, critically, Varney's performance was compared favorably to that of Laurence Olivier's turn in John Osborne's The Entertainer.

A 7" single was issued to promote the film: Best Pair Of Legs In The Business b/w Come On And Tickle My Fancy (Columbia, DB 8977, 1973).

Reg Varney

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And that's all for now.

Tune in next time...

Same place, same channel!

Best Pair Of Legs In The Business - Trailer

Am I Blue? - Ethel Waters
from the 1929 motion picture On With The Show


Xersex said...

I love the Twenties so much, even for the fashion.

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Marion Davis was a beauty!! I can see why Randolph was gaga about her.

And Raymond Hackett!


whkattk said...

Show people are the best people, don't you think?