Turn on the Heat and melt those igloos away!

For today's blog, I would love to talk about an very cute, extremely strange, and seemingly scandalous clip for it's time - Turn on the Heat, from the 1929 film, Sunnyside Up.

This scene stars Sharon Lynn as an adorable eskimo, with great 1920's makeup and an adorable little flapper singing voice to match.

Sharon Lynn (1901-1963), born D'Auvergne Sharon Lindsay, was featured in 32 films between 1924 and 1938. There's really not too much information on her online, other than she was married twice in her life, and died of multiple sclerosis in 1963. In face, all websites I found seem to agree that she died in 1963, but I've found multiple websites with different birth years given for her (1901, 1904, 1907, 1908, 1910), so I'm not 100% sure how old she was when she passed.

Interesting tidbit: One of her husbands, Benjamin Glazer, was a 2 time oscar winner, and one of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

According to one website, on top of singing and acting, Sharon also composed songs. Multiple websites mention Sharon as being best remembered for her major supporting role as Lola Marcelin the 1937 Laurel and Hardy film 'Way Out West'.

Turner Classic Movies' website had this mini bio on Sharon's life (note the number of films she apparently appeared in differs from what is quoted by IMDB above):
She entered films as an extra, appeard in silent films and then later in "talkies". She was both and actress and a songwriter. On Broadway she appeared in C. B. Dillingham's musical Sunny Side Up before making her movie debut in Clancy's Kosher Wedding. In 1941 she appeared in her last film, "West Point Widow". Sharon was married twice, to screen writer Barney Glazer and then to Beverly Hills resident John Sershen. On May 26, 1963 at the Hollywood Presperterian Hospital, Sharon died from multiple sclerosis. During her career, Sharon appeared in 36 films.

So now let's talk about her role in this clip from the film Sunnyside Up. She truly is adorable in this fun and weird clip. She's a great Betty Boop look-a-like with her makeup, hair and adorable little voice. She does this thing that I like to call the "Flapper Singing Arms." This is where many singers from the 1920's will place their arms in a frame in front of them, as if they're holding a basket, and then as they sing, will bend the wrists to and fro to the rhythm of the music. You'll see exactly what I mean when you watch it.

After about 2 minutes of lyrics, Sharon exits stage right, and out pop the Eskimo chorus girls. Here's where things start to get weird....
I'm not exactly sure what choreographer Seymour Felix was thinking here. The girls appear as Eskimos from behind the igloos, but many of the dance motions are just strange. I mean, we DO see some very good examples of blackbottom dancing, but one must wonder at times if Seymour isn't trying to create some odd form of "native" dancing by the way the girls wiggle and swish their hips. Quickly we see that what they are doing is some sort of a strange native "heat" dance, to melt away the igloos. Why on earth Eskimos would want to melt away their homes, I have no idea.

Watching the dancing in this clip, many images come to mind - flappers completely high on weed or alcohol dancing sloppily, some sexual sirens of the sea trying to hypnotize sailors, and more.

At around 3:50 into the clip, the girls quickly change formation to remove their eskimo costumes... and well, it just gets more and more WEIRD from there on out. I won't go into details, I think this crazy LSD clip will speak for itself...

So now, please enjoy Sharon Lynn and some very strange blackbottom dancing from the clip Turn on the Heat, from the 1929 film, Sunnyside Up.

"Keep Young & Beautiful If You Want To Be Loved"... AKA the most un-pc & sexist clip I'll probably ever post

Ok, so I'm writing today about a clip that to be honest, is just insane. However, it is extremely entertaining, mostly because you have to laugh at just how not politically correct and sexist it is!

This clip is a song called Keep Young & Beautiful if You Want to be Loved, from the movie Roman Scandals (MGM, 1933).

The film stars Eddie Cantor (if you don't know anything about Eddie Cantor, he was a famous comedian, actor, singer, dancer & songwriter who performed in vaudeville and with the ziegfeld follies, as well as a number of movies. You can read more about him here), and I was able to find a very well-written summary of the film on this site:

Eddie Cantor stars in this musical-comedy farce as "Eddie," a genial, wistful loner who stumbles upon corruption in his home town of West Rome, Oklahoma. He sides with a group of poor townspeople (one of whom is played by Lucille Ball) who are being evicted from their homes for failure to pay their mortgages... and is himself thrown out of town.

Trudging along the highway, Eddie daydreams his way back to Ancient Rome, where things are not much better... He is arrested by a group of Roman soldiers, who turn him over to slave auctioneers. Because of his strange and amusing personality, he escapes torture and gets assigned to the home of the emperor (Edward Arnold) as a food taster. He also makes the acquaintance of a deposed courtesan, played by the popular singer, Ruth Etting.

The musical highlight of the film comes when Cantor, trying to escape the palace guards, wanders into the quarters of the emperor's ladies (The Goldwyn Girls), a harem of splendid proportions. (Lucy, of course, is one of the beauties.)

Eventually, Eddie makes his escape from Rome in a wild chariot chase, and after getting knocked out, he awakens to find himself back in modern-day West Rome. By now the corrupt officials have been exposed, and Eddie is hailed as the hero of the townspeople.

So now where do I begin with this clip?

First off, it is extremely sexist. Let's discuss the lyrics of the song... here's essentially how it starts:

Keep young and beautiful
It's your duty to be beautiful
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved

Don't fail to do your stuff
with a little powder and a puff
Keep young and beautiful

If you're wise exercise all the fat off
Take it off, off of here, off of there
When you're seen anywhere with your hat off
Have a permanent wave in your hair

Take care of those charms
And you'll always be in someone's arms
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved

Another one of my favorite lines:

You'll always have your way
If he likes you in a négligée
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved

Oh and yes, the women are ALL BLONDES...by that I mean that it's clear that many of them are wearing wigs. See the picture above? That's Goldwyn Girl Lucille Ball... with a LONG blonde wig on. As the girls sing their song, they are patted down and massaged by African American women (their own hair wrapped up).

I feel like this song totally perpetuates the stereotype of what beauty is, especially for the culture of black women in our society historically. Anyone see the Chris Rock documentary, "Good Hair"? Black women will spend a minimum of $1,000.00 for a weave of straight hair to be attached to their head. It's insane! In the documentary, Chris explores how historically (through advertising, and clips light this one) women have developed these ideas of what beauty is and should be - in this case, it's platinum blonde.

Also this clip... you could say it's just a little racist. One of my favorite non-pc moments is at 3:00 min in. The scene shows the blonde jezebels standing in a row, with the camera focused from their thighs down. As they stand there, the black spa servant women pat down their legs, until the ladies step forward, and we see the black women smile at the camera while massaging the calves of the white women, with this look on their face like, "oh boy! I love making white women look beautiful!" Soon after, one of the spa servants is shown brushing the Rapunzel hair of one girl, and it looks like she's brushing it like we did our My Little Pony hair when we were kids!

Then we finally get into the dancing at around 3:35. You get to see both the blonde girls as well as the black girls dance.

And then after that, it just gets more fucked up. I'll let you watch the clip now to see the most ridiculous ending ever, but I'll give you a small hint at the insanity: there's a "little person" involved.

Here is Keep Young & Beautiful if You Want to be Loved, from the movie Roman Scandals (MGM, 1933).

Come in the Water, the Water is Fine!

For today's blog, I would like to share with you quite a fun little clip, titled "Come in the Water, the Water is Fine", from the film, Tanned Legs (1929)

This is a great little clip with a beach beauties theme, even though certainly, some of the chorus girl moves are pretty silly & quite comical.

This clip features singer/actress June Clyde. Here's a little info on June from Wikipedia:

June Clyde (December 2, 1909 in St. Joseph, Missouri – October 1, 1987 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida) was an American actress, singer and dancer.

Clyde's career began at age seven on the vaudeville stage, billed as Baby Tetrazini. She progressed to a modest career in Hollywood films before marrying English film director Thornton Freeland. Clyde moved to England with her husband and appeared in several British films and stage productions starting in 1934, as well as returning to the United States periodically for both stage and film work.

According to IMDB.com, between 1929 and 1957, June was in 63 movies/tv episodes! That's quite an impressive (almost) 30-year career, even though there is not much information to be found about her online.

Here is a quick little bio about June, written by Hal Erickson, of All Movie Guide (NY Times):
June Clyde was a vaudeville star at age seven, billed under her family name as "Baby Tetrazini." After a thriving stage career, Clyde made her talking-picture debut in RKO's Tanned Legs (1929). While she had a pleasing personality and above-average dancing and singing skills, she was seldom seen to best advantage in her Hollywood films, playing second (or even third) fiddle to such bombastic performers as Wheeler and Woolsey (The Cuckoos 1930) and Jimmy Durante (Hollywood Party 1934). Upon her marriage to British director Thornton Freeland, Clyde relocated to England, where she showed up in such films as the 1935 Richard Tauber vehicle Forbidden Music and in many West End stage productions. She periodically returned to Hollywood in the 1940s, where once again she was consigned to secondary roles. Back in England in the late 1940s, June Clyde remained there until her death at age 77; her last film was the British-produced, Hollywood-financed The Story of Esther Costello (1957).

I could find no information on the chorus girls featured in the clip, except for TWO names:
1. Claire Rochelle
2. Polly Ann Young

I feel it's also notable that this film stars the famous Ann Pennington, who has been mentioned in an earlier blog (Snake Hips).

The most comical parts of this routine for me are at around 1:00 into the clip. One of the things the chorus girls do is link arms and swing their right legs over the handholds, but the immediately let go and begin hopping backwards as the back girl crawls between their legs to the front of the line.... umm... what's the point of all that?

Another funny spot is directly afterwards, at around 1:18. The girls proceed to do somersaults down their line, landing like a snow angel, one after the other. I can only imagine when the girls were first shown the choreography for this film... they must have thought the dance choreographer was crazy and playing a joke on them...

This routine is certainly energetic - lots and lots of hopping for the lovely dancin' ladies, and June is just so damn adorable in her little late 20's swimsuit and headband! What really makes this clip are the scenes were the chorus girls all lean back and kick their legs straight and high - the visual effect is hypnotizing and with the catchy tune of June's cute voice, it's pretty hard not to smile when you see this clip.

So now, for your viewing pleasure, I'd like to present, "Come in the Water, the Water is Fine", from the film, Tanned Legs (1929)

Ebony Rhapsody

Sorry it's been so long since my last blog posting, folks! I've been super busy myself getting ready for our chorus girl team, Sister Kate, to head on down to New Orleans, LA for the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown... we're lookin' forward to struttin' our stuff in the birthplace of jazz!

For this blog posting, I would like to discuss the clip Ebony Rhapsody, from the film, Murder at the Vanities (1934).

This clip really is a pleaser to not only the jazz dancer, but the jazz music enthusiast - there is truly some memorable footage here of Duke Ellington playing on the white grand piano... what a performer he was! That warm smile and energy that exudes from him as he taps his fingers along the piano keys... A really lovely part of this clip is at around 3:47 when the dancers all stop and focus their attention on a solo played by the Duke.

The vocalist in this clip is Gertrude Michael.
A tiny bit about Gertrude's career:

Born as Lillian Gertrude Michael in Talladega, Alabama, she reportedly graduated from high school at the age of 14. She became a radio singer on the radio. She attended the University of Alabama and Converse College, Cincinnati.

In 1929 in Cincinnati she made her stage debut in a stock company. She subsequently appeared on Broadway in Rachel Crothers' Caught Wet (1931). She entered the movies playing Richard Arlen's finaceé in Wayward (1932), but her best-remembered role is probably as Rita Ross in Murder at the Vanities (1934), one of the last pre-Code films, in which she sang an ode to marijuana (Sweet Marijuana).

She had an affair with writer Paul Cain (aka Peter Ruric). After they broke up, Cain wrote the role of the alcoholic lover (based on Michael) in his only novel published during his lifetime, Fast One.

She died, aged 53, of undisclosed causes, in Beverly Hills, California.

The movie is based on Earl Carroll's Broadway play. I don't want to go to in depth about Earl Carroll, but I thought his bio was just too interesting to pass up. Here's his bio from Wikipedia.com:

Earl Carroll (September 16, 1893 – June 17, 1948) was an American theatrical producer, director, songwriter and composer born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Carroll produced and directed numerous Broadway musicals, including eleven editions of Earl Carroll's Vanities, Earl Carroll's Sketch Book, and Murder at the Vanities, which was also made into a film starring Jack Oakie. Known as "the troubadour of the nude", Carroll was famous for his productions featuring the most lightly clad showgirls on Broadway. In 1922 he built the first Earl Carroll Theatre in New York, which was demolished and rebuilt on a grander scale in 1931. He built a second theatre on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, California in 1938.

In 1926 Carroll became involved in a scandal due to a party he threw in honor of Harry Kendall Thaw, who came from Pittsburgh and was a potential investor in Broadway shows. During the private party a bathtub was brought out in which there was a nude young woman bathing in illegal liquor. One of the guests at the party was Philip Payne, editor of the New York Mirror. Although Carroll expected his guests would be circumspect about what happened at the party, Payne published a report. This was noted by federal authorities, and they subpoenaed Carroll to appear (with others) before a grand jury. The authorities were apparently determined to learn the source of the illegal alcohol. Carroll denied the incident happened, but others at the party confirmed it. The federal government prosecuted Carroll for perjury, and he was convicted and sent to the Atlanta Penitentiary for six months.

Earl Carroll died in the crash of United Airlines Flight 624, which also took the life of his companion, Beryl Wallace, on June 17, 1948, in Aristes, Pennsylvania.

Indeed, even though the theme of this scene is set in what appears to be the Victorian-era, it is clear where Carroll's influence comes in with the sheer skirts worn by the black chorus girls in this clip (dressed as the stereotypical servants of course - very common costume for black stage performers during of the time). Towards the end, the white chorus girls, too, lift up their layers of petticoats and show us their long and slender legs - oh my!

Of course all of the dancers in this movie clip are credited as the "Earl Carroll Girls." I was quite surprised when reading the credits list of names to see some familiar ones, namely Seattle-native Ernestine Anderson & 50's sitcom favorite Lucille Ball.

This clip definitely reminds me of the "Chool Song" soundie featuring Dean Collins & Jewel McGowan (for all you lindy hoppers out there). Like the Chool Song, this clip begins with a traditional classical setting, but eventually the jazz/swing beat takes over. At around 4:43 seconds into the clip, the music starts to speed up, and everyone becomes intoxicated by the jazz... Duke's bass player spins his instrument around between plucks as the white chorus girls kick their legs up with skirts hiked up, just like you would have seen in a can-can routine....

And now finally, for your enjoyment, I'm happy to present the clip Ebony Rhapsody, from the film, Murder at the Vanities (1934).

Feels like a Harlem Honeymoon!

In honor of the upcoming wedding of my dear friends Travis & Mary, I have decided to create this blog for you all today - "Harlem Honeymoon" from the film King for a Day (1934).

This clip stars the famous tap legend, Bill Robinson, and while there is a billion and one things I'm sure I could find to write about Bill Robinson... well... that's not really what this blog is all about - it's about the ladies.

So today, I'd like to give you, what little history I can, on the 3 women that star in this clip:

Babe Matthews
Muriel Rahn
Hattie Noel

Unfortunately I couldn't find too much on Babe Matthews, other than according to IMDB.com, she made an appearance in 3 films (this one in 1934, and 2 others in 1939).

I did find that she was the vocal on a recording with the Clarence Williams Trio (which included the famous Louis Armstrong) on May 24, 1938 - the song was Bluer than Blue. She often appeared with her husband, Eddie Matthews, in her films.

I couldn't even find a real photograph of her anywhere, but I believe she is standing on the left in this clip. I also found this poster for her film from 1939, Paradise in Harlem, and it is very likely that she is one of the women in the lower right hand side.

Secondly, let's talk about Muriel Rahn (1911-1961). Muriel's life appears to have more documentation online than Hattie & Babe's. Carl Van Vechten's Portraits of Women website had this to say about Muriel:

Best known for her performance in the title role of the Broadway play Carmen Jones, singer and actress Muriel Rahn was born in Boston and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama. In college at Atlanta University and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Rahn studied music and education. She spent a short time as a public school teacher before devoting herself completely to her career in show business.

Through the course of her career, Rahn developed a reputation as the kind of rare performer who is equally talented as a singer and as an actress. Many of her major operatic roles, including Salome and Aida, allowed her to exercise these dual strengths. Muriel Rahn became the first African-American singer to perform in an opera at Carnegie Hall when, in 1942, she appeared in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. In spite of her great success in operatic performances, Rahn was best known for her concerts and for her performances in many Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

And finally, we have the amazing and engaging Hattie Noel (1893-1969)

Hattie Noel, born Celeste Noel, was in 16 films between 1934 and 1942. Her first film was the one featured in this blog - King for a Day. Like Babe Matthews, there also is not a lot written about Hattie Noel's life.

I would like to post a link to another great clip with Hattie though - the song Alice Blue Gown, from the film Irene (1940). The "Harlem" section begins at 3:11, and Hattie makes her amazing entrance at around 3:45.

*Hot Trivia*
You have probably seen Hattie Noel as a child and never even realized it: She was the live-action reference for the Hippos in the Dance of the Hours section of Disney's Fantasia(1940).

According to IMDB.com, she also auditioned for the role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939), but lost the role to Hattie McDaniel.

I love the chorus girls in this clip, in their southern belle dresses and delicate parasols. They are elegant and peppy at the same time, as they kick and flap their parasols along to the rhythm of Babe, Muriel & Hattie singing.

One of the funniest parts is towards the end - a stork appears at the wedding with a plastic baby doll. The stork then drops the baby doll and it falls into the arms of Bill Robinson, and *WAH-LAH* - a new baby! Pretty funny... I didn't know that's how babies are made... ha ha ha...

Unfortunately, this clip (since I originally wrote this post) has been deleted from YouTube, HOWEVER, you can watch the 21 minute film IN ITS ENTIRETY here. I highly recommend it!

That's the rhythm of the day!

This is really a fun clip for all of you today - it is a grand scene from the film, Dancing Lady, and the title of the song is Rhythm of the Day (1933).

So many things to say about this clip! Let's start w/ a little background info on the film itself.

Synopsis from IMDB.com:
Janie, is a former dancer in a burlesque theater. During a show, one man from the public takes off part of Janie's costume, leaving her almost topless. In that precise moment the police come and take away all the dancers to court, with charges of attempting against moral. The judge won't believe Janie's explanation about the matter, and sends her to jail. Tod Newton, a rich man who was in the theater, bails Jane out of jail. He feels attracted to Janie's beauty and after hearing her story about longing to become a famous dancer, he feels disposed to help her. A prestigious Broadway director, Patch Gallagher is trying to set up a musical play, but he's having some monetary difficulties. Tod will get an audition for Janie, despite Patch's resistance. But the director accepts the girl, who's a quite talented dancer. Nevertheless, Patch begins to feel attracted to Janie, who is working hard in the rehearsals, behaving well and is kindly with the director. But Tod is planning to propose to Janie, despite the fact that matrimony is now out of her future plans.

The film stars Joan Crawford & Clark Gable, with misc. other appearances by famous broadway dancers. Let's talk a little about Joan Crawford now (from Wikipedia):

Joan Crawford (March 23, 1905 – May 10, 1977) was an American actress of film, television and theatre. Starting as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies before debuting on Broadway, Crawford was signed to a motion picture contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1925. Initially frustrated by the size and quality of her parts, Crawford began a campaign of self-publicity and became nationally known as a flapper by the end of the 1920s. In the 1930s, Crawford's fame rivaled MGM colleagues Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo. Crawford often played hardworking young women who find romance and financial success. These "rags-to-riches" stories were well-received by Depression-era audiences and were popular with women. Crawford became one of Hollywood's most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women in the United States, but her films began losing money and by the end of the 1930s she was labeled "box office poison".

After an absence of nearly two years from the screen, Crawford staged a comeback by starring in Mildred Pierce (1945), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 1955, she became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company, through her marriage to company president Alfred Steele. After his death in 1959, Crawford was elected to fill his vacancy on the board of directors but was forcibly retired in 1973. She continued acting in film and television regularly through the 1960s, when her performances became fewer; after the release of the British horror film Trog in 1970, Crawford retired from the screen. Following a public appearance in 1974, after which unflattering photographs were published, Crawford withdrew from public life and became more and more reclusive until her death in 1977.

*Hot Trivia*
This was Fred Astaire's first film, and Joan Crawford was Fred Astaire's very first on-screen dance partner. Astaire's dancing career actually began with his sister, Adele, in vaudeville and on Broadway.

Oh, and in regards to Joan, The Motion Picture Herald placed Crawford on its list of the top-ten moneymaking stars from 1932, the first year of the poll, through 1936 and Life magazine proclaimed her "First Queen of the Movies" in 1937 (Joan Crawford: A Biography by Bob Thomas, 1978).

So now some thoughts on the clip itself...
One thing you will notice in this film right away are the crazy costumes. After everyone time travels to 1933 (yes, you read that correctly - they time travel to the future), the first set of chorus girls we see are wearing (what would most easily be compared to) a kind of bellhop outfit... only the skirts are about 5 inches too short. It's pretty comical that the girls' asses are literally hanging out of the back of the skirts - they are THAT short.

A little later in the clip we see a group of old ladies with canes walk into the beauty salon to get makeovers, and *POOF*, they magically come out not only wearing dresses that appear to be constructed of reynolds-wrap, but they ALSO magically appear to have aged backwards 50 years as well! (gosh, there really is a lot of time-changing in this clip)

My favorite part of this clip by far though, are the "special effects" of this film. At the beginning of this clip, we see a group of actors that appear to be partaking in a garden party from the days of Marie Antoinette. They then magically time-travel through a large doorway into the 1930's, and this itself is a pretty fun effect. One can only imagine how awe-inspiring it must have been to a 1933 audience! Horse-drawn carriages pass through the doorway only to magically turn into chauffeur driven expensive cars.

The next special effect scene (that is quite spectacular) is near the end of the clip, at just around 5:00. Chorus girls are positioned (lying down) on a giant wheel that is the base of a giant merry-go-round, with an illusion that creates a kind of kaleidoscope between the blondes and the brunettes. As this effect occurs, other girls ride the horses around them on the carousel. (hard to picture I know, that's why you just gotta watch it!)
This scene in particular really makes me think of Busby Berkeley, and I actually looked to make sure that he wasn't part of the direction of the film. He wasn't, but you can clearly see in the effects of grandeur how one would draw the comparison to a crazy vision that Busby would have.

This film really is a true joy to watch, so without further ado, I would like to present you with Rhythm of the Day (1933):

Do the wiggle waggle wow!

Here is a true gem indeed - Snake Hips (1929) featuring the FANTASTIC and infamous, Ann Pennington.

About Ann Pennington (from Wikipedia):
Ann Pennington (December 23, 1893–November 4, 1971) was an actress, dancer, and singer who starred on Broadway in the 1910s and 1920s, notably in the Ziegfeld Follies and George White's Scandals.

She became famous for what was, at the time, called a “Shake and Quiver Dancer,” and was noted for her variation of the “Black Bottom”. She was also noted as an accomplished tap dancer. Ray Henderson wrote the extant version of "Black Bottom" for Ann - she had already been performing the popular version of the dance for some time. Some years prior to this, she had also topped the bill on Broadway in her performance of the musically similar "Charleston". Pennington also achieved fame as a star of both silent and sound motion pictures.

She began her career on Broadway as a member of the chorus in The Red Widow (1911) starring Raymond Hitchcock. Her debut in the Ziegfeld Follies was in 1913, where she quickly established herself as one Ziegfeld's top attractions.

With dimpled knees and long dark red hair, the petite, pretty, charming, and often scantly-clad Pennington stood a mere 4' 10" tall and wore only a size 1½ shoe. Because of her diminutive stature, she was referred to as “Penny” by her friends and colleagues. Her nickname for herself was “Tiny”.

During her years in the Ziegfeld Follies she appeared alongside the likes of Bert Williams, Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers, Fanny Brice (who became her closest friend), Marilyn Miller, and W. C. Fields. She switched back and forth between George White's "Scandals" and the Follies more than once, earning a salary of $1000 per week at one point, and continued to moonlight in the early New York film industry. She also frequented Harlem in its jazz heyday. She was until the late 1920s chaperoned at performances by her mother. She was noted for a quick and witty personality, but was said to be shy off stage and easily embarrassed, and in her latter years was loath to discuss her early life.

Ann Pennington could dance, sing and act, but her first love was dancing on stage, and she never became established as a movie actress.

After her years on stage and screen ended, Pennington toured in vaudeville. She retired from performing in the 1940s. She last appeared on stage in a benefit show for the armed forces in 1946. She had a committed work ethic, and worked wherever the opportunity arose, although as she aged and tastes changed, she ended her stage days in shabby theaters with low rank dance companies. Film of her "Snakes Hips" dance at the Worlds Fair 1939 survives, but is more memorable for her enthusiasm than her star quality in her fading years.

Ann Pennington died in New York City on November 4, 1971, aged 77. She had lived alone on welfare in New York hotels overlooking 42nd street for the previous 20 years since the death of her best friend Fanny Brice ("Funny Girl"). She is buried in the Valhalla cemetery in New York. No family were known to have attended her funeral, which was paid for by the Actors Benevolent guild.

A few years before her death, she was asked what had been the greatest reward from her years of stardom, and her reply was "in living, honey".

This clip features such AMAZING dancing by Ann... so truly inspiring and such a joy to watch! Really focus on her solo spotlight at 1:25 seconds in the clip - the fringe of her dress REALLY show off her hip swivels and movement.

I am truly obsessed with this clip at the moment, so it is so exciting for me to share it with all of you!

Here is Snake Hips (1929)

I want you to meet OUR GIRLS!

For your chorus girl watching enjoyment, I'd like to present to you, the "Russell Markert Girls" from the film King of Jazz (1930).

This is a great classic clip from the film King of Jazz, and if you've never watched this film, I would strongly suggest renting it from Netflix and checking it out! There is some wacky and amazing stuff in there - very much a vaudeville/variety act kind of film, but with some amazing dance and music intermixed!

And here begins the chain reaction of dance troupe inspiration that I feel historically is important to share:

-->Tiller Girls
---> Russell Markert Girls (shown here)
----> Missouri Rockets
-----> Radio City Rockettes

The girls you will see here in this clip were known as the Russell Markert Girls (shown to the left), who were directly inspired by the Tiller Girls (click on the link above to see an example of the Tiller Girls dancing).

The Tiller Girls (shown in the image below), a British chorus troupe, so inspired Mr. Russell Markert (he was also strongly inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies, which is evident from the chorus girl costuming), that he decided he must recreate a troupe similar to this in America. Russell Markert, who would later become the famous Radio City Rockettes in 1932, quoted; (from Wikipedia)

"I had seen the John Tiller girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922," he reminisced, "If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks, they'd knock your socks off!"

Many a Tiller girl would be a little offended at this remark as many of the Tiller Ballet and Tap Routines have never been replicated with such precision. However the Rockettes Kick routines today are precision dance at its very best, original and real entertainment.

The Rockettes first kicked to life in 1925 as the "Missouri Rockets" and made their show business debut in St. Louis, the realization of a long-time dream of their creator, Russell Markert.

Russell Markert added his own style to the precision dance routines; this found its way back to the Tiller girls in the United Kingdom. Girls that had visited the USA during the late 1930’s and 40’s danced for the Troops and liked the American style of dancing and the costumes with head dresses they saw. American films also showed showgirls and had a big impact on the British audience. From the late 1940’s through the 1970s the Tiller girls adopted a lot of the American Showgirl styles that could trace their roots back to the “Les Folies-Bergère” in the late 1890s.

A little bit about Paul Whiteman & the movie from Wikipedia:

In 1930 "Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra" starred in the first feature-length movie musical filmed entirely in Technicolor, King of Jazz. The film was technically ahead of its time, with many dazzling camera effects complementing the Whiteman music. Whiteman appeared as himself, and good-naturedly kidded his weight and his dancing skills. A highlight was a concert rendition of Rhapsody in Blue. Unfortunately, by the time King of Jazz was released to theaters, audiences had seen too many "all-singing, all-dancing" musicals, and much of the moviegoing public stayed away. (It also didn't help that the film was shot as a revue with no story and not particularly imaginative camerawork.) The expensive film didn't show a profit until 1933, when it was successfully reissued to cash in on the popularity of 42nd Street and its elaborate production numbers.

King of Jazz marked the first film appearance of the popular crooner, Bing Crosby, who, at the time, was a member of The Rhythm Boys, a vocal trio with the Whiteman Orchestra.

I must admit that part of the reason why I love this clip is because not only is it semi-creepy in a "Stepford-Wives" kind of way, but also very honest about the body shape of dancers back then. I mean, check out the girl on the far right end when she is extending her high kicks. She doesn't have what we think of today as "Rockettes legs"... these women have thighs that are large, natural & beautiful! It's so refreshing to watch these clips and see a more natural form performing these routines instead of anorexic dancers like we so often see nowadays on tv!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I'd like to present "King of Jazz"(1930)

Check Your Husband while you shop!

This clip is really a fun one - with a catchy (and very comical) tune and adorable pink and white outfits, how could you ever resist?

I would like to present to you: Check Your Husband from the musical short, Over the Counter (1932) starring Elenaor Thatcher, Frank Pangborn and Sidney Toler.

This clip cracks me up - the concept of the routine/clip is that the housewives have a place to leave their husband while they shop and spend their man's money... sort of like a coat check. To quote one of the actors, "Why it's big business, Dad! Profits! It's a great idea! All over the store husbands have been keeping their wives from buying the things they want!"

Elanor Thatcher shines in this clip, as the head vocalist for this clip, backed by singing and dancing by MGM chorus girls.

I tried to find some more information on Elanor (her name is also spelled as Eleanor on other websites), but for the most part, IMDB at least only has her listed as ever making an appearance in 3 clips:

* The Road to Ruin (1934) .... Dancer
* Over the Counter (1932) .... Vocalist
* Wild People (1932) .... Singer

Unfortunately it doesn't appear that Elanor really made it into the big time with MGM, which is really a shame. She's so cute here in this clip....

I especially LOVE the outfits in this one: pink and white bellboy hats, tulle puffs of white bows that are so huge they are almost absurd yet ridiculously adorable, white shorts w/ a half skirt around the back... ACK! SO CUTE!

There's not too much else to say about this short film, so instead, I will let it speak for itself.

Here's Check Your Husband from 1932:

Nicholas Brothers X 15 beautiful women... oh, and a dancing horse

Today's clip is really going to make your jaw drop, followed by smiles and laughing at how insanely awesome this piece of footage is!

I would like to present to you: Sensations of 1945 (1944) starring the famous and sensational tap dancer Eleanor Powell.

Just a little history on Eleanor:
Eleanor Powell was born November 21, 1912 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She was discovered at the age of 11 by Vaudeville Kiddie revue, Gus Edwards, which led to her Broadway career in the 1920's. Her famous tap dancing earned her the title of world champion in tapping. In 1935, she arrived in Hollywood where she starred in MGM musicals, establishing herself as the Queen of tap dancing. She co-starred with many impressive actors, such as Jimmy Stewart, Robert Taylor, Fred Astaire, Nelson Eddy, Robert Young and many more. She was mainly a solo performer and one of the best tap dancers to ever grace the silver screen.

Influenced by the popularity of such tap dancing groups as the Nicholas Brothers and the Berry Brothers, this clip features a truly amazing group of tap dancin' ladies doing splits galore, named the Jumpin' Jive Girls. Most of the clip we see these beautiful ladies jumping and leaping their way across the screen into graceful splits, followed by a scene of Eleanor Powell tap dancing with... yes... you guessed it... a horse.

My favorite part of this clip by far is when she leads the horse around the edge of the circular stage, and the two begin to cakewalk in unison at some point. God she was so cool! After the horse exits, Eleanor shows us one of her other specialties (besides dancing with animals) - her ability to do lightening speed spins across the floor with the utmost precision and control!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, be prepared to be awed and amazed at the finale from this movie, Sensations of 1945 (1944)

We Want Ice-Cream! We Want Ice-Cream!

For today's post, due to the heat over the 4th of July weekend and my craving ice-cream of ice-cream all day, I've decided to present you this clip for our 3rd issue: Kid Millions (1934).

This is the finale from the movie, which stars Ethel Merman & Eddie Cantor.

For those that know me and have come over to my place before to watch clips, I'm SURE you've probably seen this real nutjob of a gem. I mean this clip is crazy - you have tons of children pounding down the doors of an ice-cream factory, chorus girls ice-skating around making ice-cream flavors, and children eating so much of that good stuff that they have to waddle home with stomachs that remind you of Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka (perhaps this clip served as a later inspiration for the Gene Wilder film??).

And while we're at it, here's a little bit about Ethel Merman (from Wikipedia):
Ethel Merman (January 16, 1908 – February 15, 1984) was an American actress and singer of the musical theatre. Known for her powerful voice, she was often referred to as "The Grande Dame of the Broadway stage".

Merman was known for her powerful, belting mezzo-soprano/alto voice, precise enunciation and pitch. Because stage singers performed without microphones when she began singing professionally, she had great advantages in show business, despite the fact that she never received any singing lessons. In fact, Broadway lore holds that George Gershwin warned her never to take a singing lesson after seeing her opening reviews for Girl Crazy.

Merman began singing while working as a secretary for the B-K Booster (automobile) Vacuum Brake Company in Queens. She eventually became a full time vaudeville performer and played the pinnacle of vaudeville, the Palace Theatre in New York City. She had already been engaged for Girl Crazy, a musical with songs by George and Ira Gershwin, which also starred a very young Ginger Rogers (19 years old) in 1930. Although third billed, her rendition of "I Got Rhythm" in the show was a breakthrough, and by the late 1930s, she had become the first lady of the Broadway musical stage. Many consider her the leading Broadway musical performer of the Twentieth century, with her signature song being "There's No Business Like Show Business".

While I admit that this clip in itself doesn't have any real dance scenes in it, it does have lots of lovely chorus girls, which appear in the clip for the first time at just after 2:00 minutes. But then again, that is probably sort of the beauty of the chorus girl, herself... she can be an amazing blackbottom dancer, tap dancer, singer, contortionist.... or she could just walk around on stage in complete unison with 49 other ladies while wearing a gown dripping in satin and silk looking beatiful, which is exactly what Berkeley often went for....

The girls are wearing totally sweet jumpsuits as they carry the different ingredients up a staircase to throw into the giant ice-cream vats... the girls are lovely, and hey, who doesn't love ice-skating ladies singing and making sweet dessert?

This clip is just fun, and you really have to watch the whole thing to get the full experience. So now, for your viewing pleasure (and for your weird-ing out pleasure as well), I'd like to present, the finale of Kid Millions from 1934. Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Kick Up Those Skirts & Show Those Knickers! Oui! Oui!

Seattle is super sunny today and it's Pride weekend, so I've decided to share a very high energy and colorful clip with you all today.

I'd like to present, for your viewing pleasure, the final scene from the film French Cancan (1954).

A little history about the can-can, from the book The Natural History of the Chorus Girl by Derek & Julia Parker (available on ABEbooks.com):

The can-can, danced by a soloist or a chorus, was an even less artistic variant of the polka-piquee, in which the whole intention was to display the legs in a series of leaps and kicks and 'splits' - again, often without knickers: the can-can sans culottes was a dance which originally owed much more to the brothel ante-room than to the stage, and its intention was outright titillation, prostitutes being in attendance to satisfy the itches aroused in the customer. It was perhaps a dance more notorious than evident, though there is no doubt it was performed, and that stories of its aphrodisiac delights came back to convince potential tourists of the advantages of Paris.

This clip presents what may be a very historically accurate portrayal of the can-can at the Moulin Rouge. From ladies flying down from ropes in the balcony, to girls bursting through paper in the walls, this scene is FULL of energy and excitement.

In between moments of exciting formations and ridiculous splits tricks, we are presented with utter energetic chaos of girls spinning, dong cartwheels across the floors, screaming in excitement, legs kicking up in the air (as well as knickers!), and bodies generally flying all over the place.

Enjoy the French Cancan!

A Little Taste of Busby in the Beginning....

For the first post, one of my personal favorites:

"Who's Your Little Who Zis?" from 1932, starring Mae Clarke and chorus girls.
A little bit about Mae Clarke from Wikipedia:
Mae Clarke (August 16, 1910 – April 29, 1992) was an American film actress.

Mae Clarke was born Violet Mary Klotz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1] She started her career as a dancer and subsequently starred in many films for Universal Studios, including the original screen version of The Front Page (1931) and the first sound version of Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff. Clarke played the role of Dr. Frankenstein's fiancee in Frankenstein, who was attacked by the Monster (Karloff) on her wedding day. The Public Enemy, released that same year, contained one of cinema's most famous (and frequently parodied) scenes, in which James Cagney pushed a half grapefruit into Clarke's face, then went out and picked up Jean Harlow. The film was so popular that it ran 24 hours a day at a theatre in Times Square upon its initial release, and Clarke's ex-husband had the grapefruit scene timed and would frequently buy a ticket, enter the theatre to enjoy that sequence, then leave the theatre.[2]

She may be best known for her leading role as, "Myra Deauville," in the 1931 pre-Code version of, Waterloo Bridge. In the film, she portrays a young American woman who is forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution in World War I London. Both the film and Clarke's performance were well received by the critics.

She also appeared in the modest pre-code Universal film Night World (1932), with Lew Ayres, Boris Karloff, and Hedda Hopper.

By the mid-1930s though, Clarke was no longer a leading lady and was only featured in small or bit parts through the 1960s.


This is an early Busby Berkeley number, before he joined Warner Bros. and later created such classics as "Footlight Parade" and "42nd Street".

One of the things I admire about this piece so much are the simple but very art deco style leotards w/ the silver applique touches. The formation transitions are great... these girls truly shine! For such an early Berkeley number, this routine is fairly simple in it's own right, compared to later pieces by Berkeley featuring dozens more ladies on stage, elaborate waterfall sets, giant & elaborate costumes.... yet to me, this routine shines for its simplicity and precision and I love it for all that it is.

Don't miss the ending exit off stage by the girls - it's fairly creative!