I Wanna Be A Minstrel Man

Here is a truly great clip - not only because of the amazing Harold Nicholas, the child star in this clip, but also because of the beautiful and talented Goldwyn Girls!
Here is the song, "I Wanna Be A Minstrel Man," from the film Kid Millions (1934).

So, I've already discussed a bit about the film Kid Millions & about Ethel Merman in my very first blog post on this site actually, so I won't go too much into those details again...

A quick word about Harold Nicholas, from IMDB:

The Nicholas Brothers, Harold on the left
Harold Nicholas, the younger half of the world famous Nicholas Brothers dance team, is known as one of the world's greatest dancers. He and his brother Fayard Nicholas were established superstars at Twentieth Century Fox with their astounding dance numbers in the studios musicals features. Harold was known for "attributing spice to Fayard's grace," with his quick moves and matchless spunk. Harold was a seasoned pro at age 7, appearing in everything from early 1930s Warner Bros. Vitaphone shorts with the great Eubie Blake, to receiving the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in Washington in 1991. Carnegie Hall sold out for a tribute to he and his brother in 1998, who were both present that special night. Though he always made his astounding mid air splits and backwards somersaults seem effortless, Nicholas was much more though than a "specialty act" for 1940s Fox films. He was an incredible "dancer," one you could watch and never tire of. The man had a something no other dancer had. Always with a smile on his face, his special charm and style gave him that extra something no other dancer had.

The Goldwyn Girls in this clip are:

Janice Jarrat
Janice Jarrat [1.23] She was the "Sweetheart of the 1936 Texas Centennial"; in Dallas, Texas. Became famous as a "Lucky Strike model". She was selected as one of "The 1936 Flash Lighter Starlets" a group which also included Rosina Lawrence, Cecelia Parker and Barbara Pepper in its lineup.


Janice was engaged in April 1937 to marry Melvin Purvis, retired FBI agent famous for leading the hunt for Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelley and others. The engagement was called off 3 days before the wedding, without public explanation.

Wanda Perry [1.25]
Wanda Perry was born Helen Beuscher in Brooklyn, New York, on July 24, 1917, and grew up to be a remarkably beautiful young woman. When she was sixteen, she was named "Miss New York City," and was offered a movie contract by showman Earl Carroll. Wanda was a Ziegfeld Girl in the movie "The Great Ziegfeld." During the finale, "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody," she's a brunette near the top of the magnificent spiraling white staircase. When the film won an Academy Award for Best Picture of 1936, everyone in the cast received a small, brass Oscar, three-inches tall. Hers is engraved: "Wanda Perry, The Great Ziegfeld 1936.".

Helen Wood [1.27]
Helen Wood
Miss Wood won a beauty contest in 1933, which resulted in a trip to Hollywood and an uncredited bit role in Roman Scandals (1933). Returning to Clarksville, she completed high school and accepted the offer of a contract with MGM. Immediately after attending graduation commencement, she returned to Hollywood with her mother.
She was named one of "The 1936 Flash Lighter Starlets," a group that also included Barbara Pepper, Rosina Lawrence and Cecelia Parker.
In 1938, she turned to radio work. She appeared as Elaine in the Pond's program "Those We Love".


Charlotte Russell [Left @ 1:31]
Charlotte Russell went to the Fairfield School in Davis and Winters High School. She attended UC Berkeley and UCLA, and was a Kappa Kappa Gamma. She was a Goldwyn Girl and appeared in several Eddie Cantor movies.


and Bonnie Bannon [Right @ 1.31]
Bonnie Bannon was the daughter of Walter A. and Juanita (Strong) Bannon and was born in Tulare County, California. After graduating from Fresno High School, she went to work for a local Warner Bros. theater and soon entered a Warner Bros. beauty contest, where she won a contract with the studio. She went on to work for other studios and in many of Busby Berkeley's films. Her sisters Eunice Bannon and Dorothy Bannon also worked in the movies, the former as a "fancy dress extra" and the latter in TV work, mainly the "Zorro" (1957) series. The family has a collection of her studio photos and magazine and newspaper articles about her career. She first married Alice Faye's brother, Charles, in Tijuana, Mexico, and divorced him two years later. She was married twice more before marrying William Jones, a businessman, in 1953.


Left to right: Vivian Keefer, Mary Lou Dix, Ruth Moody and Lucille Ball [1.35]


Vivian KeeferShe was a model for Chesterfield-advertisements, who was invited to Hollywood together with three other Chesterfield-models: Lucille Ball, Theo Plane and Barbara Pepper. The four girls became Goldwyn-girls in their first film: "Roman scandals". While Ball and Pepper had long movie-careers, Keefer's career ended after only one year in Hollywood. Vivian is best rememberd as a showgirl in the "Mandy" and "Minstrel" -musical numbers in her last film: "Kid Millions".


Mary Lou Dix
Mary Lou Dix - no real bio online, but she appears to have died quite young (age 48) in Los Angeles, CA (in 1963), and appeared in 18 films in her career. I also discovered this STUNNING photo of her from the 1930s.  


Ruth MoodyRuth Moody was voted"most beautiful chorus girl",in 1935.The judges were Busby Berkley,Max Factor and Dick Powell.
Was married to professional tennis player Lester Stoefen. The couple had two boys, Lester Jr. and Gary.
Lucille Ball - My, my there is SO MUCH that could be said about Lucille Ball. Most people don't realize that before her days on "I Love Lucy," she was quite the chorus girl!
From IMDB.com: Remembered as a dizzy sitcom redhead with show business aspirations, Lucille Ball was, in fact, a show business powerhouse and television pioneer. 


Lucille Ball
Throughout her teen years, Ball tried unsuccessfully to launch her show business career, finally landing a spot as a "Ziegfeld Girl". She launched her Hollywood career as one of the "Goldwyn Girls", but she moved out from the crowd of starlets to starring roles. With "I Love Lucy" (1951), she and husband, Desi Arnaz, pioneered the 3-camera technique now the standard in filming TV sitcoms, and the concept of syndicating television programs. She was also the first woman to own her own film studio as the head of Desilu.

Now that we have gone through the amazing list of just SOME of these Goldwyn Girls, let's talk a bit about the highlights of the clip!

The chorus girls don't really enter the scene until just after 0:30. Then we have a bunch of what I call "Pretty Face Shots" - meaning that the girls are shown close up either solo or in duos, smiling and singing along. Then, the formation change at 1:00 is VERY classic 1930s/1940s chorus girl film style - showing the girls stepping forward and the viewer gets this glowing image of a beautiful girl on camera.

Starting at 1:38, there is a brilliant prop choreography section, using tambourines! Not only is it an elaborate rhythmic passing motion, but it happens in a cascade fashion, adding more and more girls to the movement as the camera moves downwards in the film shot from top to bottom!

So now, it's my pleasure to give you - I Wanna Be A Minstrel Man from 1934.