Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Birthday Pepper Pot, Vitaphone-Style

Just a day late, here's a chance to celebrate not one but two October birthdays, and if the package this birthday gift is all wrapped up in is a little dated, the contents cram more talent into just about ten minutes than some studio super-spectaculars did into two hours plus...

Celebrating their natal days (they would have been 113 and 100, respectively) are Miss Adelaide Hall, here in 1935 fresh from a national tour that took in most of the U.S. and Canada, and Mr. Fayard Nicholas, the older (and taller) of the two brothers of the eponymous act.  If they were the only performers in this (rather regrettably titled) "All Colored Vaudeville Show," it would be richness enough, but for their nickels moviegoers also got the antics of the Three Whippets, the Five Racketeers and their energetic take on "Hold That Tiger," and the sultry song and dance of Miss Eunice Wilson (whose sudden return just before the final curtain provides one of the most abandoned few Post-Code moments I can think of).  It's all remarkably good fun, and for the shoestring budget of a Warners short, very stylishly done - even the Racketeers' unfortunate backdrop is, aesthetically, rather glam.  And while of course it's no surprise that the Nicholas Brothers are astonishing dancers, it's a treat to see the usually reserved Adelaide show off her chops as a genuine, and very effective, hoofer.

It's remarkable to think that both our birthday babies were active in the Show Business right up to the time I washed up on the shores of Manhattan six decades later- Hall slew the people at a Carnegie Hall performance in '92, and Nicholas copped a Tony in '89 for his dazzling choreography for the revue Black and Blue (which was a fabulous night out).  I had dinner once with Fayard's brother Nicholas, but that's another story.  When, though, was the last time you had this much fun at a movie theatre?  And just think - this wasn't even the main attraction...

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