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:
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.
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!