Friday, October 16, 2020

MUSIC BREAK: BING CROSBY - SAY IT ISN'T SO

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

MUSIC BREAK: BING CROSBY - ONCE IN AWHILE

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

RIP: TOMMY RALL

Gifted dancer Tommy Rall has died at the age of 90 of heart failure. Rall was born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in Seattle. As a child he had a crossed eye which made it hard for him to read books, so his mother enrolled him in dancing classes. In his early years he performed a dance and acrobatic vaudeville act in Seattle theaters and attempted small acting roles.

His family moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s, and Rall began to appear in small movie roles. His first film appearance was a short MGM film called Vendetta. He began taking tap dancing lessons and became a member of the jitterbugging Jivin' Jacks and Jills at Universal Studios.

Rall joined Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan and Shirley Mills in several light wartime Andrews Sisters vehicles including Give Out, Sisters (1942), Get Hep to Love (1942) and others. He appeared in the films The North Star and Song of Russia (1944).

He was best known for his acrobatic dancing in several classic musical films of the 1950s, including Kiss Me, Kate as "Bill" (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as "Frank" (1954), Invitation to the Dance (1956), Merry Andrew as "Giacomo Gallini" (1958),and My Sister Eileen as "Chick" (1955).


Rall's film career waned as movie musicals went into decline. He had a role in the movie Funny Girl, as "The Prince" in a parody of the ballet Swan Lake. On Broadway he danced to acclaim as "Johnny" in Marc Blitzstein and Joseph Stein's 1959 musical Juno (based on Seán O'Casey's play Juno and the Paycock). Ken Mandelbaum wrote: "DeMille provided two fine ballets: her second act 'Johnny' in which Tommy Rall danced out Johnny's emotions...was the evening's highlight."

Rall was highly respected by his contemporaries—including dance greats Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor—with the latter describing Rall as one of the “greatest dancers living...above Astaire and Kelly...



Saturday, October 3, 2020

ADELE ASTAIRE: FRED'S GREATEST PARTNER

One of Fred Astaires's best and earliest partners was not Ginger Rogers. His own sister Adele was his first partner when they started out in vaudeville. Born Adele Marie Austerlitz in Omaha, Nebraska, on September 10, 1897, she was the daughter of Frederick Emanuel Austerlitz and his wife, Johanna "Ann" Austerlitz. Her father was a beer brewer from Vienna, Austria. In 1905, she began a successful vaudeville act with her younger brother, Fred, developing it into a career on Broadway and the London stage. One of their most famous steps, incorporated into most of their shows, was the “oompah trot” or the runaround, where Adele and Fred, side by side, would ape riding in huge circles on an imaginary bicycle. Audiences went wild for this particular antic, especially in London, where the bright-eyed, exuberant Americans were welcomed even more enthusiastically than in their own country. The diminutive, dark-haired comedian starred in 11 musicals with her brother, who was two years her junior. Among the more memorable were ''Funny Face,'' ''Lady, Be Good,'' ''The Band Wagon,'' ''For Goodness' Sake'' - retitled ''Stop Flirting'' in London - and ''Apple Blossoms.''

While in London, she became a favorite with Britain's royalty, and in 1932, after starring with her brother in the Broadway play "The Band Wagon" she retired from the stage to marry British Lord Charles Arthur Cavendish, the second son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire. 


The couple lived in Lismore Castle in Ireland, where she gave birth to three children, a daughter and twin sons. Following Lord Cavendish's death in 1944, three years later she married Colonel Kingman Douglass, an American Air Force officer and Investment Banker, who later became Assistant Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. While her brother achieved fame and success in Hollywood during the 1930s, in 1936, she gave serious consideration to making a musical film there with her brother, but changed her mind after visiting him and feeling intimidated by his overwhelming reputation.

 So, in 1937, she began filming in England with Maurice Chevalier, but after just two days, she withdrew from the film project, feeling that the film would not work for her. An outgoing person, she made numerous friends and was often in Hollywood society. In 1971, she and her brother Fred were both inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Adele Douglass died in Tucson, Arizona from a stroke at the age of 84. Just prior to her death, she had donated her papers and memorabilia to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

Astounding as it may be to contemplate, it was Adele Astaire whom in their days as a team was regarded as the truly talented one. When she retired from the brother-sister act in 1932, the public feeling was very much a case of “What will HE do?” Astaire’s hopes for himself weren’t even that great. Fortunately, he went on to prove the world and himself wrong. However, Adele was probably the single most important woman in the early days of Fred's career...


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

COMING SOON: BING CROSBY WEEK

On October 14, it will mark 43 years since Bing Crosby died on the golf course in Spain. It is amazing how the years have flown by. To commemorate his sad passing, we are going to have a week of music breaks in his honor from October 10 through October 16.

On October 14, we will play the last song Bing ever recorded - the touching Once In A While. Join me and let's pay tribute to the greatest entertainer of the modern age - Bing Crosby...