The 2016 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival: Even More Adventures in Paradise – Part 4
Now that TCM has announced its dates for the 2017 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (April 6-9, 2017), I thought this was an ideal time to offer up another installment in my year-long look at the 2016 event. (What – I didn’t mention that I was plan to write about the 2016 film fest all year? Why, sure! You see, that way, I can keep reliving it over and over – and take you right along with me!) So, thusly, the adventure continues…
Among the many things I love about the TCM film fest are the special presentations held in Club TCM, located in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel (which, incidentally, was the site of the first Academy Awards banquet in 1929). My first special presentation this year was Vaudeville 101, hosted by Bruce Goldstein of Film Forum, who also hosted the earlier trivia contest. The standing-room-only (and I oughta know, ‘cause I was standing up!) presentation consisted of film clips on a wide variety of vaudeville performers and performances. I hadn’t expected to enjoy the presentation as much as I did – I actually just attended it to kill time between films – but it was a hoot!
Here’s just a sampling of all that I learned from this entertaining and informative “course” –
⇒ My favorite clip was of a comedy team called The Beau Brummels. This duo – their real names were Al Shaw and Sam Lee – delivered a volley of jokes in a completely deadpan manner that made their corny jokes even funnier. Here’s one:
First guy: Twenty people fell off a roof and none of them got hurt.
Second guy: How’s that?
First guy: They were all killed.
⇒ Another comedy team, Smith and Dale, did a comedy routine called “What Price Pants.” This duo performed together from 1898 to the 1960s, and their “Dr. Conkrite” sketch was the inspiration for one of the bits used in the 1975 film The Sunshine Boys (starring George Burns and Walter Matthau).
⇒ W.C. Fields did a really cool juggling act with 11 cigar boxes.
⇒ Baby Rose Marie, who looked to be around six years old, belted out a song like she was Ethel Merman or something. The little tyke, who started performing at the age of three, grew up to be actress Rose Marie, best known for her role as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. (She celebrated her 93rd birthday on August 15th, incidentally.) I was completely blown away by her performance. Check it out:
⇒ Speaking of Ethel Merman, she had a clip, too, warbling “Sing You Sinners.” I’d never seen her so young – and pretty!
⇒ A highly physical musical comedy routine, “Let’s Be Common,” featured Lillian Roth and Lupino Lane. Roth’s harrowing real-life story was told years later in the film I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955), starring Susan Hayward. Lane was the uncle of actress/director Ida Lupino.
⇒ Jay C. Flippen, a veteran of such noirs as They Live By Night (1948) and The Killing (1956), did a stand-up comedy routine – he must have been in his 20s. He delivered his jokes in a rather broad, slightly southern accent; part of his act was talking about his “dumb” girlfriend. “She don’t know nothing. In fact, I don’t even think she suspects anything,” he said. “Any girl is liable to be dumb, but she abuses the privilege.”
⇒ Early shorts featuring the stars of The Wizard of Oz – Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr – were a real delight. Who knew that they all started in vaudeville!
⇒ The biggest applause from the festival goers was earned by a clip of the Nicholas Brothers. The talented dance team of Fayard and Harold Nicholas had a long-term contract with Twentieth Century-Fox and enjoyed a career that spanned seven decades.
⇒ Other clips featured vaudeville performers whose lives were later turned into films, including Irene and Vernon Castle, The Dolly Sisters, Eva Tanguay – the “I Don’t Care Girl” (played by Mitzi Gaynor), and songwriter Nora Bayes, played by Ann Sheridan in Shine On Harvest Moon (1944).
This fascinating introduction to vaudeville was a real eye-opener and left me hungry for more! If you get the opportunity to check out some of these early performances, don’t miss it!
Stay tuned for more from the 2016 TCM Film Festival . . .