October 14, 2010

The Hall of Forgotten Geniuses 2

Continuing my little series on the amazing forgotten performers and artists of 1930. Our second Forgotten Genius is the extremely talented funnyman Eddie Cantor. It's kind of surprising he's so forgotten now, because he was a big star for a long time, and hugely successful in a wide variety of media, including vaudeville, Broadway, radio, movies, books, and television - in fact, he was one of the very few real-life people to have a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (coincidentally, he's now a minor character on the new HBO show, Boardwalk Empire). Instead of blathering on about Eddie's many performing skills, through the miracle of Youtube I can just show them to you. Starting with his not inconsiderable song and dance ability - in my opinion, he should be a hall of famer just based on what he does with his eyes in this clip (he didn't get the nickname “Banjo Eyes” for nothing!):

Play "Eddie Cantor - Makin' Whoopee" on Youtube.

Completely irrelevent digression - this scene is from Whoopee!, a 1930 movie made using Technicolor Process 3, which came out in 1928. This was the first color movie process to really catch on - quite a few big-budget movies were made entirely using this process in 1928-31, and many others used it for selected scenes (including Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels, covered in Forgotten Geniuses 1). The process required filming with a special camera that simultaneously exposed two adjacent strips of black and white film behind red and green filters. The result could look quite odd - I think I've heard it called “any color you want, as long as it's pink.” However, as you can see in the clip above, it could also look pretty good - I assume this was because the colors in the scene were carefully chosen to match those that could be successfully filmed.

Continuing with song-and-dance, here's an interesting curiosity - an experimental sound film from 1923 (!), in which Eddie sings a couple of surprisingly risque vaudeville numbers. For those who wonder what vaudeville was like ...

Play "Eddie Cantor in 1923" on Youtube.

Incidentally, according to the most authoritative authority of our time - Wikipedia - Cantor was responsible for what's believed to be the first case of television censorship - on May 25, 1944, WNBT (now WNBC) in New York cut the sound and blurred the picture on some lines of his song “We're Havin' Baby, My Baby and Me.”

Moving on to some physical comedy, here's a scene with Eddie and Charlotte Greenwood as a very personal trainer (she also does a dead-on Marlene Dietrich impression). If you're not laughing out loud by the end of this clip, you may need to be checked for a pulse ...

Play "Eddie Cantor - I'm dying" on Youtube.

And last but not least, a little fast-talking Marx Brothers style comedy. A clip in which Eddie plays a strangely modern management consultant:

Play "Eddie Cantor - The efficiency expert" on Youtube.

And another Marx Brothers style clip (specifically Captain Spaulding) - I mostly included this one because the woman playing opposite him (Eve Sully) is so darn cute.

Play "Eddie Cantor - It was a small dog!" on Youtube.

(Note: These clips have a way of disappearing for one reason or another, so if you particularly like one I'd consider downloading it ...)

Sources for the above, aside from the 1930 Wall Street Journal: