Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Bruce Kogan is back with his usual great review of a classic movie. This time around it is Gloria Jean's film debut!

I'm thinking that Deanna Durbin was busy on something else and also that Universal Pictures decided it needed a backup Durbin is the reason that Gloria Jean made her film debut in The Under-Pup. As good a reason as any for the film to be made and enjoyed. Not too much variation for Gloria Jean in the traditional Durbin little miss fix-it part.

Gloria gets a scholarship to go to a girl's summer camp that's reserved for the rich and snooty. Ann Gillis is the richest and snootiest there, a sort of greatest generation version of a Mean Girl, but Gloria overcomes and even gains a friend in the person of Virginia Weidler.

The place is run by Beulah Bondi with counselors Bob Cummings and Nan Grey to assist. The girls for dress wear these military outfits and the place has a marching theme which is John Philip Sousa's High School Cadets with some lyrics added.

Others in the cast are C. Aubrey Smith as Gloria's grandfather and Raymond Walburn as Gillis's father who has spoiled her rotten. Billy Gilbert is there as the cook for the camp with two bratty sons and Gilbert does his usual shtick.

The Under-Pup holds up pretty well with its two main assets, Gloria Jean's singing and the great cast Universal surrounded her with...

MY RATING: I have not yet seen the film

Friday, October 23, 2020


Classic Hollywood and entertainment is full of talent that never quite made it. One such entertainer was Georgie Price. Price was an American vaudeville singer and comic who performed in Vitaphone shorts in the 1920s and 1930s. Born in 1901, Price began as a child performer in public places such as barrooms and streetcars, before winning amateur competitions. At six years old, he so impressed opera singer Enrico Caruso that he performed with Caruso in a benefit concert for a deceased police officers family. It was Price, as a vaudeville child star, who in 1909 introduced the famous Edwards-Madden song "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" in Gus Edwards' revue School Boys and Girls. As a boy performer he also appeared on Broadway with girl actor Lila Lee, later a well-known film actress. As an adult professional he drew comparisons to Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. As a recording artist, he had hit songs with "Morning Will Come" (1923), "Barney Google" (1923), "California, Here I Come" (1924) and "Isn't She the Sweetest Thing?" (1925), all for Victor Records.

When he graduated to long pants he was famously hired by the Shuberts as a replacement for Jolson, and then stiffed by them when Jolson returned to the fold (although Price managed to serve out the balance of his contract). He starred in big time vaudeville, becoming a staple of the Palace throughout the 20s and early 30s. A bitter dispute with Shubert theatre magnate, Jacob J. Shubert, caused Price to be blacklisted by other theater and movie producers. Shubert had originally hired Price with the promise to turn him into a major headliner, but then reneged and in turn refused to fulfill the financial obligations on Price's contract.

In 1934 Georgie left show business in 1934 to become a stock broker. He always kept a hand in, though, serving as president of AGVA (the American Guild of Variety Artists), and making the occasional appearance at benefits and on television.

The late Ron Hutchinson of the Vitaphone Project had the good fortune to meet Price’s daughter and has been generous enough to share his account:

“I became interested in [Price] after hearing the soundtrack to his 1929 Vitaphone short Don't Get Nervous. It is set in the actual Brooklyn studios and has Georgie arriving there to make a short. He is very nervous and tells the director, Bryan Foy (of the Seven Little Foys) that he needs a real audience in order to perform. Foy obliges, and Georgie sings several songs in a rich voice that reminds you of a combination of Jolson and Cantor. In the early 1990’s we were able to get the short restored and seen again by audiences.

I tracked down Georgie’s daughter, Penny Price, in New Hope, PA and was able to let her see this short as well as several others Georgie made in the thirties. She was thrilled, and shared many stories of her father. Penny has long performed on the stage in musical comedy, and her brother Peter made several films in the fifties, including The Great Caruso.

His daughter told me a great story about Georgie’s friend Bert Wheeler. After Georgie died in 1964, Bert came by to offer Penny his condolences. Bert was going through financially lean times. As he turned to leave, Bert asked if he might have one of Georgie’s suits, as they were the same size. Then he asked for his shoes. Penny said that by the time Bert left, he even took Georgie’s underwear!”

Georgie Price, a footnote in the history of musical theater, died in New York City on May 10, 1964 of a heart attack. His daughter Penny died in 2016 at the age of 82...

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wednesday, October 7, 2020


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


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...