vaudeville

Let’s fight the Monday Mehs with THE TAP AWAKENS!

Let’s fight the Monday Mehs together! I guarantee THE TAP AWAKENS by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox will bring a smile to almost anyone’s face. The group rearranges famous STAR WARS songs into a jazz medley, complete with a tap dancer to add percussive elements.

You don’t have to be a huge STAR WARS fan to enjoy the band’s performance. I consumed the original trilogy as a kid; I owned merchandise like action figures and slept in branded bed sheets; and I played STAR WARS instead of cops and robbers with friends, but I can’t claim they’re what turned me into a film fanatic, even with Han Solo being my first cinematic crush.

Awareness of and exposure to STAR WARS are hard to avoid. The movies are part of our shared cultural consciousness. They’ve been rereleased for home and theatre viewing repeatedly, which has allowed these fan favorites to be passed down to multiple movie-going generations. The songs will be familiar to you.

What’ll be new is seeing their performance turned into an vaudeville-style number and envisioning gold-clad, high energy Sarah Reich as a dancing, female C-3PO. If her enthusiasm or that image doesn’t bring a smile to your face, you might need more caffeine to get you through the rest of today!

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The Road to TCMFF 2017: Early Announced Films, How Classic Are They?

TCMFF 2017 Banner

When the TCM Classic Film Festival announced a smidgen of its schedule, fans poured over the listings to see what movies were included and did they fit their definition of classic. TCM fans are vocal on social media praising the network when pleased and passionately-yet-constructively criticizing it whenever they think their definition of classic has been strayed from. From what’s been released, I see a good mix sure to make a lot of fans happy. When I was considering whether to attend this year, I definitely felt the pull of the schedule. Let’s review what’s being offered together!

Since so many TCM film fans want to see classic era (i.e. studio era) movies, here’s how the offerings break down by time period. Of the thirty-two films or programs announced so far, twenty-four of them were made before 1970. Seven are from the 1970s or later.

The silent era (1910s-1920s) has two offerings:

The 1930s has eight offerings, half of which are pre-codes:

The 1940s have five offerings:

The 1950s have six offerings:

The 1960s have four offerings:

 

The 1970s have six offerings:

The 1980s have no offerings.

The 1990s have one offering:

While the bulk of the schedule fulfills the most traditional and constrictive definition classic film, the 1970s, the post-studio era, is very strongly represented. Only the 1930s has more selections; the 1950s ties with the 1970s. Obviously later made films are more likely to have guests that can attend the festival, but I don’t see that as the single motivation for programmers to include such movies. If we go by a broader definition of classic, something that is of its time yet timeless in its ability to be enjoyed repeatedly now and for years to come, then almost all the 1970s programming can be defined as classic. THE LANDLORD sticks out as rediscovery championing.

The post featuring my TCMFF picks will go live soon! In the meantime, feel free to comment on the 2017 schedule’s classic credentials.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Fifi D'Orsay Thanksgiving Publicity Still

Things have been hectic at chez Spellbound. We’re moving! As I pack today, my husband’s been cooking our Thanksgiving dinner. While we hadn’t planned to move yet (our landlords are resuming occupancy of our apartment), something stressful has turned into a blessing. We’re relocating to a cool, new home–a loft on the second story of what used to be a movie theatre. We’re grateful for the family and friends who have been supportive through all parts of this process, and we can’t wait to settle into our new home.

I, also, can’t wait to take our turkey out of our oven like Fifi D’Orsay above. Marketed “The French Bombshell,” D’Orsay never set foot in France. She was born in Montréal, and her real name was Marie-Rose Angelina Yvonne Lussier. D’Orsay was clever. When auditioning for the Greenwich Village Follies, she sang her song in French to make herself stand out. She reinvented herself as an ex-Follies Bèrgere showgirl, and the Parisian persona stuck! Her career stretched from vaudeville to Hollywood movies to television to a final return to the stage, only on Broadway. She played Solange LaFitte, a former Follies star, in the Sondheim musical, FOLLIES. A perfect role to cap her career!

While I eat my meal tonight, I’ll take a moment to think of D’Orsay. I’m inspired by her ingenuity and drive, and those are traits I’ll call upon as Hubbs and I make a new home.

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We Want Ice Cream!

This weekend I celebrated a milestone birthday, and my confectionery of choice was ice cream. That got me thinking of the technicolor conclusion of Kid Millions (1934). If you’ve never seen the film, watching the above clip won’t spoil you. It’s pure fantasy that’s mostly unrelated to the film’s complicated comedy plot.

In this film, Eddie Cantor‘s character Eddie Wilson, Jr. has a dream of a better life for him, his sweetheart, and children. Once he escapes his life of poverty and toil aboard a barge, he wants to open up an ice cream factory that will give away its sweet product for free to children. The bulk of the film is him trying to claim a previously unknown inheritance to make all his dreams come true.

The ending sequence remains amazing today, so it must have made a tremendous impact on its original depression-era audience. Beautiful women in silky pajama-like outfits dance, sing, and make ice cream on huge sets with giant props. It’s as if Busby Berkeley had never become a choreographer, but had been a factory foreman instead. The film’s actual choreographer Seymour Felix must have had a blast coming up with routines.

In a time when many were without a lot, here was a scene filled with giant shakes, fruit, chocolate, bottles of milk, and plates of ice cream with no end of abundance in sight. Anyone of any age watching the screen children break down the door to rush into the factory would understand that urge. They’d trample Eddie for a taste of happiness.

Poor Eddie has a hard time today, too. For someone once so famous and celebrated, he’s not very well-known. He was a multi-media star (stage, radio, records, films, TV, and books), and he was awarded an honorary Oscar. Yes, his jokes seemed old when he told them, but as a performer I find him engaging and entertaining, so I laugh.

If an average person has a hint of who he was, he’s either Banjo Eyes or more likely that blackface performer. The latter is probably why his movies are not often revived. In his films there’s inevitably a scene of him performing in blackface. This performance form is no longer favorably viewed today, but back when Eddie started it was much more common, particularly in vaudeville and in film for a short while.

It’s a shame that often overshadows his performances, his humanitarian work, and his support of performers of color, like Sammy Davis, Jr. Just look at his version of utopia in Kid Millions. Sitting together in the same room eating their Neapolitan ice cream is an integrated cast of children. There’s even a pan of the room in which a row of African-American children are momentarily spotlighted. This was unusual at the time and had to be by design. Cantor’s heavenly ice cream social was for all children.

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The Actors: Rare Films Of Clara Bow Volume 3

We finished watching The Actors: Rare Films Of Clara Bow Volume 3 last night. Kid Boots was a cute Eddie Cantor vehicle. Clara Bow was Cantor’s character’s love interest. They made for a pairing. They actually had chemistry. She brought a breezy, natural quality to a simple role that would have been forgettable except for her. Cantor was funny with the faces and some mild slapstick, but the talkies unfettered his voice, and the marriage of his sound with his image showed how his star power vaulted him out of vaudeville. I never mind hearing any of his jokes that were hoary years before he said them. Maybe Boardwalk Empire will inspire an Eddie Cantor revival.

His silent is a stronger picture than The Saturday Night Kid talkie on the same disc, which we watched the other night.  The latter is a curiosity for containing Bow’s speaking voice and featuring three actresses at different stages of their careers–sweet Bow looking a little matronly-but-hot near the end of hers, Jean Arthur whose career wouldn’t pick up speed until the following decade when she hit her mid-to-late thirties, and soon to be a hit Jean Harlow in a bit role in a couple of scenes, including a rooftop party scene where she gets an edit that assures she does not upstage the leading ladies. The film is another adaptation of the play Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em. The first featured Louise Brooks. The second is directed by her ex.

An extra stuck on the disc got to me. There’s an excerpt from Paramount on Parade. Clara Bow sings I’m True to the Navy Now. She looks and sounds great, so the snippet teases of what might have been if Paramount and life had treated her better.  She does look up at times, but she is making flirtatious eye gestures, so she might not be showing microphone fear, and her choreography appears to be designed to diminish blocking worries. Whenever she sings, she stays in one spot and sways and undulates her arms. When she marches or fully dances, her naval chorus takes over the vocals. When the seamen lift her up at the end, I got teary seeing the screen queen looking happy and getting feted as she should have. She has such an innocence onscreen, and that makes me both sad and mad that these scenes may read differently to snarky modern audiences familiar with the false smear against her.

Some kind soul has uploaded a VHS transfer copy of her performance to YouTube. You’ll find it below.