Biographies of Personalities Who Appeared in the Grauman Prologues
Sid Grauman built his Chinese Theatre to be a deluxe film presentation house. Over his career as an exhibitor, he had adopted the format of fashioning a “prologue” — a stage presentation to support the atmosphere of the feature film — at his Grauman’s Theatre (The Million Dollar), the Metropolitan (later the Paramount Downtown) and the Egyptian.
The Sid Grauman Prologues held at the Chinese have long been famous and esteemed for their lavishness and artistry — and sometimes length. Grauman knew of all of the best stage performers, both on Broadway and in vaudeville, and he always attempted to give the public a little “something special” in his presentations.
We have attempted to provide biographical information on all of the performers and others mentioned by name in the surviving programs and descriptions of both the Grauman-produced Prologues and the occasional stage presentations produced during Grauman’s tiffs with Fox West Coast Theatre management.
We encourage readers to contribute information which may add or correct facts for the figures we have on this roster.
Renée Adorée was an exotic dancer film star from France, whose career found her playing in second tier roles in M-G-M productions.
Born into a family of circus performers, Adorée was performing as a dancer with her parents from a very early age. The family was performing in Russia when World War to began, so they fled to England.
Touring in the UK and Australia brought her much attention.
In 1919, she was cast in a Shubert musical revue which
toured the country before opening as Oh, What a Girl! on Broadway. The Shuberts put her in another touring show in 1920 called The Dancer. She broke into films by appearing in The Strongest in 1920, which had been based on a novel written by George Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France. She became a Fox contract player after this, playing opposite John Gilbert in an adaptation of (The Count of) Monte Cristo in 1922.
After making a couple of films for Louis B. Mayer Productions, she became an M-G-M contract player, and was subsequently selected by director King Vidor to play the femal lead in The Big Parade opposite John Gilbert, in 1925; it became one of the greatest commercial and artistic successes of the silent era. Her appearance in Howard Hughes' production of The Mating Call in 1928, became controversial due to Adorée's performing a nude swimming scene.
Although she was a major star, she was beginning to slow down. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She made her final film (and only real sound picture) Call of the Flesh with Ramón Novarro in 1930, against doctor's orders. Upon completeting the picture, she was packed off to a sanitarium in Arizona, where she spent the next two years. Thought to be well enough to return to the cameras, she returned to Hollywood, but her condition relapsed. She died in the modest home she had created in Tujunga in 1933.
Costume designer Adrian was born Adrian Adolph Greenburg to Gilbert and Helena Greenburg. He began his design education at the New York School for Fine and Applied Arts in 1920. In 1922, he tranfered to the school's camus in Paris, France, where he was tapped by Irving Berlin to design costumes for his Music Box Revue, which would tour Europe.
Rudolph Valentino's wife Natacha Rambova hired Adrian to design costumes for A Sainted Devil in 1924, beginning his film career, eventually becoming head costumer for Cecil B. DeMille, and would design for his film King of Kings in 1927.
So it was natural that when the film was chosen to open Grauman's Chinese, Adrian would be asked to contribute; his credit in the program says that the costumes for the prologue's finale, "The Spirit of Faith" were "conveived and supervised by Adrian."
Adrian had married Janet Gaynor in 1939, and in 1941, letft M-G-M to establish his own colthing company. A heart attack in 1952 brought an end to that however. He and Janet bought a ranch near Brazilia, Brazil; Adrian would accept the occasional film or stage assignment. While working on the original staging of Camelot, he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1959.
Slayman Ali Clowns
Slayman Ali appears to have been a circus fanatic. He formed a troupe of tumbling acrobatic clowns who delighted circus crowds for years. It is known that they played the bigtime as early as 1917 (pictured) when they were on the bill for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Circus. They appeared in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Ballyhoo" for the film The Circus in 1928.
Slayman Ali was so devoted to the circus arts that after his clown troupe broke up on account of World War II, we went on to manage and represent circus
acts, and to recruit new ones, very often from Morocco, which had a rich tradition of thumbling, acrobatics and so on.
George C. Arthur
Nothing is known of George C. Arthur, who was billed as the "Master of Cermonies" at the "Midnite Matinee" on Saturday, March 30, 1929, along with Sid Grauman's Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody.
Aggie Auld was one of the most famous and revered hula stylists. Born to a family active in Hawaiian politics, she studied ballet and dance at an early age. Leilihua developed a strong ability to perform the Hawaiian hula dance, and while in her teens, she performed before Prince Kuhio and Princess Kalanianaole.
Joining Prince Leilani's tour in 1924, she traveled widely as the group became popular on the vaudeville circuits. She appeared with Prince Leilani and his Samoan Chiefs in the Sid Grauman Prologue "The Tropics" for the film White Shadows in the South Seas at the Chinese Theatre in 1928.
During the 1930s, Leiihua and Prince Leilani married and spent much time in Honolulu, where she introduced her signature dance "Lovely Hula Hands" at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. She appears on the original sheet music for the song which was written to accompany her dance.
During World War II, Leilihua entertained toups in Los Angeles, where she had opened a hula dance studio. Aggie later was remarried to Norman Hendershot, with whom she composed the popular song "Hula Lo-Lo."
Composer / Conductor Constatin Bakleinikoff was born into a large Russian musical family, and studied at the Moscow Conservatory. Traveling to America with his brother Vladimir and the Moscow Art Theatre, he led concerts given by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
He accepted the task of becoming the orchestra conductor for the premiere of both the Chinese Theatre and Cecil B. DeMille's film King of Kings in 1927. Bakaleinikoff conducted the score for the film written by Hugo Reisenfeld and Josiah Zuro, and probably composed and arranged the music for the "Golries of the Scriptures" prologue. Brother Vladimir was the choral director.
While Vladimir went east to meet his destiny with Fritz Reiner in Cincinnati, Constantin remained in Hollywood; he was on hand to open the Warner Bros. Hollywood Theatre in April, 1928, but by August of 1928, Grauman had coaxed him back to conduct the orchestra for "The Tropics" prologue for the film White Shadows in the South Seas at the Chinese.
The Hollywood studios beconed, and Constantin answered the call, going to work first at Columbia, then Paramount, then at M-G-M. He composed, conducted and oversaw the work of others in the music departments. He wrote the scores to many "B" films and shorts. He caromed around a bit until settling in for a long stint at RKO Pictures, most notably conducting Roy Webb's score for Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film Notorious.
Vladimir, older brother to Constantin, was a violinist, who, like his brother, studiied at the Moscow Conservatory. Throughout the 1910s to the mid 1920s, Vladimir became a well-known member of several string quartets while also being the conductor of the Moscow Art Theatre. A busy guy, he was also professor of viola at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
When he and his wife toured America with the Moscow Art Theatre in 1925-26, he was invited by conductor Fritz Reiner to be his assistant at the Cincinnati Symphony.
During this period, Vladimir served as chorus master for the Sid Grauman Prologue to the film King of Kings along with brother Constantin, who conducted the orchestra.
Bios conflict, but it seems that Vladimir left to work with Fritz Reiner in Cincinnati. He might have come back to Hollywood to work, but he has no film credits of any kind. Moving back to Pittsburgh to work with Reiner with that city's symphony orchestra, Vladimir began a long teaching relationship with future conductor Lorin Maazel.
While with the Pittsburgh Symphony, he composed a fairly large body of works, including a concerto for viola and orchestra in 1937. He wote his autobiography Notes of a Musician in 1943.
He remained with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra until his death in 1953.
Arnold Bob Blackner
Arnold Bob Blackner was a "cowboy tenor," given several songs to sing in Sid Grauman's Prologue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 in 1928.
Boy Sorprano Stewart Brady was born to George and Margaret Brady, who were Vaudevillians. Making appearances at the age of six, by his eighth year, he was studying with Catherine B. Swint in San Francisco. He could sing in five languages and could also play the piano.
Brady made an apperance on Oakland radio station KGO in August of 1925. He was given the role of "Youth" in a performance of Meddelssohn's Elijah given in San Fransico with the San Francisco Symphony in 1926. He was championed by songwriter / performer Gus Edwards, who introduced the boy to Sid Grauman.
Stewart's account of his audition for Grauman during the rehearsals for the "Glories of the Scriptures" prologue mentions that Grauman asked the boy if he knew any religious songs. So before the entire cast and crew, he sang his favorite: "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)." Grauman thought it was too dour a number. He asked, "Don't you have anything that's bright and cheery?"
So Stewart and his mother went out and got the sheet music for "The Holy City" and he sang it for Grauman the next day — and was hired.
His appearance in Sid Grauman's Prologue "Glories of Scriptures" for the film King of Kings in 1927, was Brady's first engagement in Hollywood. A scout for Warner Bros. saw the lad at the Chinese and offered him a contract. He has been credited with participating in the Sid Grauman Prolgue for Noah's Ark, in November, 1928.
Brady made a Vitaphone short, production number 2745, called Stewart Brady, The Song Bird, which was released in August of 1928, where he sang three numbers.
According to Ron Hutchinson of The Vitaphone Project, the picture has survived, but the sound is currently missing.
In his later years, Brady settled in San Francisco and taught voice and piano. He became the vocal coach for the American Conservatory Theatre there as well.
Interviewed late in life, Brady spoke of his appearances in the Grauman prologues as being the pivitol time in his life.
Ada Broadbent was a member of the Albertina Rasch Dancers. She was given three solos to perform in the Sid Grauman's Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody: as the "Spirit of Jazz" danced to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue;" the "Tap and Rhythm" number, and in the "Romantic Ballet" section with music by Rasch's husband, Dimitri Tiompkin.
While out on the coast, she and several other Rasch dancers were in a short 2-color-Technicolor short film for M-G-M called A Night at the Shooting Gallery (also with music by Tiompkin) in 1929.
The Brox Sisters were an amazing singing / hamonizing singing trio. Cute and charming stage performers, once heard, never forgotten.
Born to a showbiz family, they were performing together in vaudeville by 1910 or so. Somehow, they formed a stong relationship with Irving Berlin, who wrote the song "Everybody Step" for them to sing in the first of his annual Music Box Revues in 1921. The Brox Sisters appeared in the Music Box Reviews of 1923, and 1924. They made many recordings of both Berlin songs and those of other Tin Pan Alley composers.
Continuing to hitch their wagon to Berlin, the Sisters were on Broadway with the Marx Brothers in the second brief run of The Cocoanuts (music by Berlin) in May, 1927, then appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927 (music by Berlin) from August, 1927, to January, 1928. Then, they embarked on a national tour of the The Cocoanuts with the Marx Brothers, Playing the Biltmore Theatre in Los Angeles in 1928.
Their incredible singing style, perky personalities, and Los Angeles location enabled the Brox Sisters to glide into the movies easily, making some Vitaphone Shorts before appearing in The Hollywood Revue of 1929, which played the Chinese, and King of Jazz with Paul Whiteman in 1930.
The act broke up by the mid 30s.
Lorayne married jazz trumpeter Henry Busse in 1935. They lived together until his death in 1955. Lorayne then married Joseph D. Hall, who died in 1983. Lorayne died in 1993, at the age of 93.
Patricia married a man named Gerstenzang. She died in 1988, at the age of 84.
Bobbie married her agent, William Perlberg in 1928, who later became a producer. They divorced in the 1960s. She married songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen in 1969, who passed away in 1990. Bobbie died in 1999 at the age of 96.
Andy Byrne was a conductor who led the Grauman's Chinese Symphony orchesta in the "Broadway Nights" prologue for the film The Broadway Melody in 1929.
Leo Carrillo was an actor with considerable connection to the political past of California, with his great-great grandfather having served with Portolá on his California expedition in 1769. His father was cheif of police and later, the first mayor of Santa Monica.
After University, Carrillo worked as a cartoonist at the San Francisco Examiner before heading off to act on the Broadway stage, where he landed his first role as Sir Giovanni Gasolini in the musical revue Fads and Fancies in 1915, at the age of 35. Two years later, he was the star of Lombardi, Ltd., which had a successful run in the 1917-1918 season, and was revived with Carrillo in the title role in 1927.
Carrillo made his first film, a Vitaphone short called At the Ball Game in 1927. After a start like that, right? Carrillo was asked to be "honored guest" (along with director Fred Niblo as master of ceremonies) at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, April 20, 1929.
Carrillo is best remembered as Pancho, TV sidekick to Duncan Renaldo's The Cisco Kid a syndicated television show which ran from 1950 to 1956.
Carrillo was active in Republican politics in California, and was a member of the California Beach and Parks Commission for 18 years — Leo Carrillo State Park, a beach in Malibu, California, is named in his honor. He owned a huge ranch in Carlsbad, California, which is a historic site today.
Carrillo published his memiors, The California I Love, just shortly before his death in 1961.
The Carsons were billed as "Texas Tommy dancers" in Sid Grauman's Prologue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 in 1928.
Born Emile Barrangon, Chief Caupolican is credited with being the first Native American to sing major roles at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His debut on March 9, 1921 was in the role of "Hans" in The Polish Jew, composed by Karel Weis-Leon. In a review in the New York Times, it was related that Chief Caupolican was half Chilean Indian of the Araucarias tribe. Educated in Europe to develop his musical gifts, he was said to have appeared in American vaudeville, and had been a lecturer on the Chatauqua circuit. He could converse in Spanish, English, French and German.
Caupolican appeared as the final act in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 at the Chinese Theatre in 1928. He made his Broadway debut in taking the role of "Black Eagle" in the Eddie Cantor show Whoopie! in December of 1928. He would make his one and only film appearance in the film version of Whoopie! in 1930.
Chief Caupolican began to lose his voice in the early 1950s, and had formed a frienship with music critic and author Anthony Boucher and was living in San Francisco. In 1959, when Caupolican
was 83 years old, he married again and moved to Seattle.
Billed as an "International Comedy Star," Chaz Chase had made it into the big time with a comedy act with featured the comedian wearing big loose clothes and eating anything and everything imaginable — from flowers and cardboard, to fully lit books of matches.
Chase appreared in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 at the Chinese Theatre in 1928. Variety mentioned that "They (Los Angelinos) had not seen this comic out here, so it was a push-over."
Chase appeared in a Vitaphone short Chaz Chase: The Unique Comedian in 1928, and played a waiter in The Man on the Eiffel Tiower with Charles Laughton in 1949. He made several appearances on Broadway as well. He was an immense hit on the USO Tours in both the European and Pacific theatres during World War II.
Chase was an unstoppable performer, continuing in nightclubs in New York and Paris (he played the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris for eight years in the 1950s), and on television long after vaudeville was dead. In his later years, he was in the cast of the Mickey Rooney / Ann Miller stage revue Sugar Babies in 1979, and did a guest appearance on Late Night with David Letterman on March 29, 1983, when the show was about to go on the road with Carol Channing and Robert Morse. He died later that year.
Jerry Coe was a stand-up comedian who was "a little different, that's all." He appreared in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody at the Chinese Theatre in 1929. Variety mentioned Coe and the other acts on the bill were all "show stoppers."
Cole was the son of Polish immigrants in New York City. His father was a garment industry union organizer, and was raised in an atmosphere of socialism and politics from an early age.
Somehow, Cole became interested in the theatre and the movies, becoming an assistant on Max Reinhardt's staging of The Miracle in 1924. Touring the country with it, the play stopped in Los Angeles to play the Shrine Auditorium. According to Cole, the producers had scheduled a last-minute rehearsal before an audience of Hollywood's elite to see if any big director would buy the film rights; to have his revenge, a furious Reinhardt turned the rehearsal over to a bewildered Cole, who got through it regardless.
Later, a friend told Cole about the Chinese Theatre opening, so he went to see Grauman at his office at the Egyptian Theatre. Grauman had attended The Miracle rehearsal and liked the way Cole had handled the situation. Cole was hired to be Grauman's assistant director. Pay: $75 per week!
Cole worked on the prologues for King of Kings in 1927, and The Gaucho in 1928. When Cole told Grauman he was underpaying the Latino second-string performers in the "Agrentine Nights" prologue, relations between the two men became frosty, and after The Gaucho opened, Cole quit. He never saw Grauman again.
Breaking into screenwriting in 1932 on If I Had a Million, Cole must have found working for the studios to be inequitable, because only one year later, he helped establish the first union of Hollywood writers, the Screen Writers Guild.
In 1934, Cole officially became a member of the American Communist Party, and susequently found himself being summond by HUAC. For his refusal to incriminate himself for his right of free association, he was fined $1,000 and spent 10 months in jail. When he got out, he found himself "blacklisted," unable to find work at the studios.
Undaunted, he wrote scripts anyway, having friends "front" for him. His most famous script was for the film Born Free, which was credited to his front, Gerald L. C. Copley. In 1981, he published Hollywood Red: The Autobiography of Lester Cole. He died of a heart attack in 1985.
Senorita Cordova was a castanet dancer, performing a solo number in Sid Grauman's Prologue "Argentine Nights" for the film The Gauchoin 1927.
Corinne was a costume designer, working primarily in the theatre, where all details tend to disappear. She is credited with designing the costimes for the Sid Grauman Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody in 1929. She also did the costume design for the Sid Grauman Prologue "Studio Life" for the film The House of Rothschild in 1934, which is the last of the real Grauman prologues. She has only one credit on the Internet Movie Database: doing the costumes for a 1954 television production of Mandrake the Magician, starring Coe Norton as Mandrake and Woody Strode as Lothar.
Edna Covey appears to have been a fairly well-known dancer. There are no other details about her, except that she appeared in the Sid Grauman Prolgue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 at the Chinese Theatre in 1928, but she was not on the program for the "Yukon Nights" prologue, which was introduced mid-run of the film.
Joan Crawford in the lobby of Grauman's Chinese Theatre during the premiere of Grand Hotel, on Friday, April 29, 1932.
Lili Damita was a French film star, who was brought out to Hollywood at the close of the silent era. She is most famous for having been married to Errol Flynn during his salad days of the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Globtrotting from an early age, Lili was enrolled in the ballet school at the Paris Opera in 1918, when she was 14 years old. In 1921, she was awarded a role in a film as the grand prize in a beauty magazine contest, which led to roles in other silent films.
Given a starring role in the Austrian film Das Spielzeug von Paris (Red Heels) in 1925, she married the film's director, Michael Curtiz, but the marriage (surprise!) did not last. By the time Curtiz was brought to Hollywood by Warner Bros., and Damita was brought over by Sam Goldwyn, the two were divorced already.
Karl Dane was a key supporting player in the silent era, instantly recognizable for his great stature and goofy manner. He did not make it into the sound period.
Dane's father had built a toy theatre, which got Karl interested in performing. But acting doesn't pay the bills, so young Karl studied to become a machinist. He served in the Danish Army. By 1912, Dane had a wife and two children. In 1914, he was called up to serve in World War I.
Joining many others seeking to escape war-torn Europe, Dane, with no money and no English, arrived at Ellis Island in 1916. He lived in Brooklyn and Lincoln, Nebraska, then moved back to New York, working as an auto mechanic for $3 per week.
In 1921, Dane married again, quit the movies, moved to Van Nuys and ran a chicken farm. Tragically, his wife Helen died in childbirth in 1923. Friends from the film biz rescued him from his doldrums, eventually landing him a role in King Vidor's whopping hit film The Big Parade in 1925, which starred John Gilbert and Renée Adorée. For the next several years, Dane was everywhere.
There was another problem — Dane's thick Danish accent. Despite appearing in sound films like The Big House (1930), Billy the Kid (1930), and some short films, work for Dane slowed to a trickle. M-G-M broke his contract. Paramount sent him out on the vaudeville circuit with George Arthur, but it wasn't exactly a roaring success. Dane lost all of his money in a mining failure. He impulsively proposed to a telephone operator and married her, only to divorce her a few weeks later. Desparate, he bought into a hamberger stand in Westwood, but it too was a failure. Whle meeting a young lady for a movie date, Dane was pickpocketed and lost all of his money. When he was late for the date, the young woman went to Dane's apartment only to find that he had shot himself in the head.
Since Dane had no realatives, actor Jean Hersholt stepped up and insisted M-G-M pay for Dane's funeral, which was immediately held. 50 people attended.
Marice Morgan was an organist, who played during the engagement Sid Grauman's Prologue "Argentine Nights" for the film The Gauchoin 1927.
Mariano Del Gado
Mariano Del Gado was a musician who made a name for himself by becoming a master player of gourds. He performed several solo numbers in Sid Grauman's Prologue "Argentine Nights" for the film The Gauchoin 1927.
Dixie Jubilee Singers
The Dixie Jubilee Singers were an African-American choral group, founded by a woman who would become known for organizing, training, arranging and composing for chiors, Eva Jessye (1895-1992).
Jessye was born in Kansas, studied music at Western University in that state, and Langston University in Oklahoma. She took a chior directorship in Baltimore, Maryland in 1919, then worked in Oklahoma again, then back to Baltimore by 1926. She began concertizing under the name "Dixie Jubilee Singers" the name under which they appeared at the Capitol Theatre in New York City. The group appeared on the radio, and made recordings for Brunswick.
Eva Jessye thought working at M-G-M was a discrimitory experience, and said so to the press; thereafter, she concentrated on working in the concert music world; she was the choral director for the original production of George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess in 1935. She also composed original spirituals and arrangements of traditional songs. She became involved in the civil rights movement, having her chior perform at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for many years.
Dizzy Dumb Doras
We feel that the "Dizzy Dumb Doras" listed as being the "Masters of Ceremonies" in the "Broadway Nights" prologue for the film The Broadway Melody were a one-time only act performing only on the opening night of the picture, Friday, February 1, 1929. Their identities are alas, lost to history.
A "Dumb Dora" was slang at that time for a dim-witted female.
But toward the middle 1930s, Doran slipped back into the chorus, not even receiving a screen credit for Naughty Marietta (which played the Chinese in 1935). Her last films are from 1936; nothing is known of the 60 years of life remaining to her in New York City.
Gus Edwards was a pereminent vaudevillian, songwriter, music publisher, producer, and eventually, musical movie star.
Moving with his family to America in 1885, he got a singing job in showbiz as a young lad. He began as a "song plugger" at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City. By age 17, he was touring with a act called The Newsboys Quintet. Despite not being able to make musical notation, he wrote a song with Tom Daly for May Irwin called "All I Want is My Black Baby Back," and his songwriting career commenced. In this song, a "Black Baby" refers to a boyfriend stationed at Camp Black, which was on Long Island between March and September 1898, during the Spanish-American War.
It was while entertaining troops at Camp Black that Edwards met his longtime collaborator Will Cobb; the pair would write many songs together while Edwards traveled the vaudeville circuit with his own company. Several prominent performers Edwards has been credited with discovering include: Walter Winchell, George Jessel, Eddie Cantor, the Marx Brothers, Eleanor Powell, Ray Bolger, and the Lane Sisters. His reputation was such that an industry nickname for him was "The Star Maker."
Edwards even owned his own theatre in New York City: the Gus Edwards Music Hall in 1908. Edwards wrote the music for many Broadway shows. He wrote music for the first musical staging of The Wizard of Oz in 1903, and worked on the Ziegfeld Follies of 1907, 1909, and 1910. His most enduring composition is the music, with Will Cobb's lyric, of "School Days" which goes: "School days, school days, good old golden rule days. . ." This guy was everywhere. He even wrote a tune for The Jazz Singer in 1927 called "If a Girl Like You Loved a Boy Like Me" but didn't get any screen credit. Not a big deal.
Gus Edwards was lured out to Hollywood in order to write virtually all the music and to star in M-G-M's big musical The Hollywood Revue of 1929. While out on the coast, he made an appearance at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, March 9, 1929. Edwards was asked back to appear at the "Midnite Matinee" again on Saturday, June 8, 1929.
Edwards had a radio program originaling in Los Angeles over KFWB called School Days of the Air. While Edwards was still alive, Bing Crosby portrayed him (sort of) in a musical bio-(sort of) pic called The Star Maker in 1939.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the lobby of Grauman's Chinese Theatre during the premiere of Grand Hotel, on Friday, April 29, 1932.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. naturally followed his famous father into the picture business, made several good films during the 1930s, then became a talented naval officer during World War II.
Junior was born to Douglas Fairbanks and his first wife Anna Beth Sully, when Doug was appearing on Broadway frequently. The marriage broke up in 1918, by which time, Fairbanks had become a huge star. Doug Jr. was raised by his mother in Paris and New York.
Given an acting contract at Paramount in 1923, he was only 14 when his first starring role became Stephen Steps Out. He became a supporting player, which was more suited for him, playing in Stella Dallas in 1925, and A Woman of Affairs in 1928.
Miffed at Warners' asking him to take a pay cut, Fairbanks spent the next couple of years working in England, where he became friends with Lord Mountbatten. Returning to Hollywood, he was put into The Prisoner of Zenda (which played the Chinese in 1937), and co-starred with Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen in the classic adventure film Gunga Din in 1939.
After that, Fairbanks was shoved in one action film after another. When the U.S. entered World War II, Fairbanks immediately enlisted and was assigned to Mountbatten's Commando staff in England. He was later assigned to South America, then witnessed the disaster of the Convoy PQ17 in the North Atlantic.
Fairbanks became interested in Military deception, and was heavily involved in the Beach Jumper program, which divereted attention from defenders by staging misleading offensives. Fairbanks recieved several decorations for his service and remained on duty in the Reserves until 1954, retiring with the rank of Captain.
Returning to Hollywood after the war, he found himself in That Lady in Ermine (which played the Chinese in 1948), but was dissatisfied with the result. He returned to England. Despite what could be seen as indifference to the picture business, he stayed with it, appearing in English films and television. He even toured in My Fair Lady in 1968, and appeared as a guest on The Love Boat with Ginger Rogers, which aired in November, 1979.
He published his autobiography: Salad Days in 1988, and wrote memiors of his military service, A Hell of a War in 1993.
Fanchon and Marco created a company which organized and toured stage presentations, called "Ideas" to deluxe movie houses around the country. Fanchon and Marco Ideas were showcased in many prominent theatres during both the silent era and into the sound era, where the economic advantage of mounting one unit and sending it around on the road, allowed the "movie with stage show" to continue, where other theatres dropped them. The idea behind the "Ideas" is more-or-less replicated in the film Footlight Parade from 1933.
Fanchon and Marco broke into showbiz on the vaudeville circuit by the time they were ten years old. Their act was as ballroom dancers with a finale of Marco playing the violin while Fanchon perched on his shoulders. By 1919, they had fashioned the Fanchon and Marco Revues, which then morphed into a dance troupe: The Sunkist Beauties, who went on a national tour in 1921, thereby giving F&M the notion of bicycling shows around the country.
The F&M "Ideas" were underway by 1923. With names such as "The Box of Candy Idea" or "Mickey Mouse Idea" or "All at Sea Idea" or "Top O'the World Idea" or "Gems & Jams Idea" these show names are frequently depicted in photos of theatre marquees during the silent and early sound eras.
Some of the talents who appeared in F&M shows include Ann Miller, Betty Grable, Bing Crosby, Buddy Edsen, Cyd Charisse, Doris Day, Fred and Adele Astaire, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland (The Gumm Sisters), Mae West, Mary Martin, Myrna Loy, and Shirley Temple.
In the early 1930s, the F&M Studio in Hollywood (where the Home Depot is today) was where all of the costumes and scenery were made for all of the shows. The Fanchon & Marco curcuit was large indeed, spanning the entire country. If you were booked into an "Idea," you could look forward to many grueling weeks on the road. The F&M Studio also contained a school.
After their costume shop made the costumes for Sid Grauman's Prologue "Broadway Nights" for The Broadway Melody in 1929, Fanchon & Marco were brought in to provide stage shows at the Chinese when Grauman wasn't doing his own prologues: the "Moorish Melodic Fantasy" for the film Morocco in 1930, "presented" the show "Rhapsodie in Black" for the film Trader Horn in January of 1931, and an untitled "Stage Show Supreme" for the film Dirigible in April of that year..
F&M operated a small chain of "Southside Theatres" in the Los Angeles Market, with their headquarters the Manchester Theatre downtown, but that was all done by 1950 or so.
Frank Fay was a successful comedian on the Broadway stage and in vaudeville. Born to an Irish family in San Francisco, Frank changed his name and lit out for the stage in 1918. He developed a natural delivery method, one which Jack Benny later admitted was an inspiration for his own stage persona. He bacame a very well-known vaudeville headliner, as well as appearing on Broadway — in 1922, he staged, starred, wrote the book and the lyrics for the musical revue Frank Fay's Fables. The huge show flopped.
In 1928, he met a fast-rising starlette named Barbara Stanwyck, who was just recovering from the tragic death of her lover, Rex Cherryman. Fay and Stanwyck married on August 26, 1928.
Warners' giving Fay his own production company might not have been the best idea: his next film, the prophetically-named A Fool's Advice from 1932, was such a bad title, they had to re-name it: Meet the Mayor, which is not exactly an improvement.
So Fay drifted in Hollywood while his wife Barabra Stanwyck was becoming a household name. Although the two divorced in 1935, and Frank didn't drown himself, their relationship is widely thought to have been the inspiration behind the film A Star is Born (which played the Chinese in 1937).
In 1944, Fay created the role of Elwood P. Dowd in the original Broadway production of Harvey, opposite Josephine Hull. Reports are that Fay had become an uncontrolable egomaniac, and had to be replaced by Joe E. Brown for a time.
Fay has susequently gone down in history as being a notorious, anti-semitc, pro-Hitler, HUAC-supporting, zealot.
Director King Vidor had wanted to make a film featuring African-American's long before making Hallelujah in 1929, and so, must have seen Fountaine's films and kept him in mind to play the "heavy" named Hot Shot in that film.
John Gilbert rose through the ranks to become one of the most popular leading men of the silent era.
Born to showbiz parents, John's childhood was an unhappy one. Taking his mother's maiden name, Gilbert lit out for Hollywood, where he broke in with the Thomas Ince Studio. His mentor in pictures was leading director Maurice Tourneur, who put Gilbert in his stock company.
By 1919, Gilbert was starring opposite Mary Pickford in films. In 1921, Gilbert signed a three-year deal with the Fox Studio, where he stared in several films which did well, but after the Fox contract was up in 1924, Gilbert was signed by M-G-M, who placed him in higher-profile films, such as His Hour and He Who Gets Slapped, both from 1924, The Merry Widow, and the hugely successful The Big Parade from 1925, and La Boheme with Lillian Gish in 1926.
Starring with Greta Garbo in The Flesh and the Devil in 1926, led to an offscreen romace between the two, with Garbo eventually saying that she wanted to be alone. This and other matters put Gilbert on Loius B. Mayer's bad side, with Mayer reported to be highly disgruntled over Gilbert's success. Many historians attribute Gilbert's fall to Mayer's ill-feeling.
John Gilbert was the master of ceremonies on the opening night performance of The Broadway Melody on Friday, February 1, 1929.
Poor scripts and poor acting choices accompanied Gilbert in his transition to sound, with the actor becoming the poster-boy for the silent star who couldn't make it in talkies. Despite help from Irving Thalberg, Gilbert was let go from M-G-M in 1933.
He starred opposite Garbo in Queen Christina (which played the Chinese in 1934), then made one more film that year at Columbia, The Captain Hates the Sea, then quit making pictures. Longtime alcoholism led to a heart attack in late 1935, while a second in January, 1936, was fatal.
Some of the Goodrich "Silver Fleet" cars making an appearance at a garage in Pasadena on Thursday, May 2, 1929.
Goodrich "Silver Fleet"
In 1929, the BFGoodrich Company ran a promotional stunt called the Goodrich "Silver Fleet." Fifteen sedans and one truck were all outfitted with BFGoodrich tires — all painted silver.
The cars all took off on a cross-country trip in 1929, in order to (drum up interest) demostrate the long-lasting quality of the Goodrich tires.
The exact route of the Goodrich "Silver Fleet" has not been re-created, but we do know that the Fleet was in Southern California at the beginning of May, 1929, where they made an appearance at a garage in Pasadena on Thursday, May 2, with all of the usual publicity and notables on hand.
Just how the Goodrich "Silver Fleet" shared the stage as "personal guests of Sid Grauman" with Anita Page at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, May 4, 1929 is not known, alas. We imagine that some of them were parked out in the forecourt, while some others might have appeared onstage.
Vera Gordon played the indomimable Jewish mother in many films during the silent and early sound eras.
On the stage at an early age, she had difficulties in her career due to anti-Semetism rampant in Czarist Russia. In 1904, she married producer / writer Nathan A. Gordon, they had a child, them emmigrated to America, where she performed in New York's Yiddish theatres, while also appearing British vaudeville.
She appeared on Broadway in the farce Why Worry? in 1918, but it was her turn in the play Potash and Pearlmutter in London, where she was spotted to appear as the mother in Paramount's version of Humoresque in 1920. She starred in the film version of Potash and Pearlmutter in 1923, and its sequel, In Hollywood with Potash and Pearlmutter in 1924. She got to play Mrs. Cohen in a series of "Cohen and Kelly" films, played "Mrs. Feinbaum" in Kosher Kitty Kelly in 1926 — Hollywood kept this Jewish mother busy!
Gordon continued making films, and helping support Jewish children in orphanages until her death in 1948.
Portia Grafton was a dancer and model, who frequently posed for photographer Edward Steichen. She made her Broadway debut in the ensemble of Rio Rita in the 1927-28 season, then became a member of the Albertina Rasch Dancers. Shipped to Los Angeles, she was given two solos to perform in the Sid Grauman's Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody: as "Terpsichore" danced to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." and also in the "Romantic Ballet" section with music by Rasch's husband, Dimitri Tiompkin. Quitting the Rasch team, she returned to New York to appear in the Broadway show Princess Charming, with fellow ex-Rasch dancer Nona Otero, but it closed after only 56 performances.
David Wark Griffith at the Chinese Theatre for the premiere of King of Kings on Wednesday, May 18, 1927.
D. W. Griffith is one of the most important figures in film history. Making films from 1908, his wildly creative sense of what could be done in a movie made his name prominent when actors were not billed by name onscreen at all. He had stunning sucesses with the feature film format, but sometimes overeached.
Griffith's father had been a colonel in the Confederate Army, and had been elected to the Kentucky state legislature, but this life of privilege ended when the man died when David was ten years old. The young lad worked odd jobs at age 14 to help support the family.
Wanting to be a playwright, he found more acceptance as an actor. In 1907, Griffith tried to sell a scenario to Edison producer Edwin S. Porter, who gave him a part in the short Rescued from an Eagle's Nest. The following year, 1908, Griffith bagan his association with the Biograph Company, and assumed directing command there, making 48 shorts in his first year alone. In 1910, his film In Old California was the first film to be shot in Hollywood, and from which Griffith would base all of his future operations.
Convinced that audiences would be able to follow longer, more complex stories without suffering eyestrain, Griffith embraced the feature-length film, beginning with Judith of Belinda in 1914.
Resistance to longer films put Griffith on the path of becoming a renegade. Leaving Biograph, he went to work at Mutual, Then Mutual-Reliance, then Triangle, which was a forerunner of the later United Artists.
Griffith bet the farm on an adaptation of the novel The Clansman, filming The Birth of a Nation in 1915. The two-hour-fifteen minute film clearly demonstrated that a long story — no matter how incendiary — if told with skill, could find an audience. Nation made a ridiculously huge amount of money.
Hurt by criticism of Birth of a Nation, Griffith sought to answer his critics with his next film, Intolerance, in 1916. The three-hour film is a tour de force of cinematic techniques, interweaving four different storylines to demonstrate a single theme. But even today, the picture is too much of a good thing — the film failed to recoup its staggering $400,000 budget.
Griffith, forced to pick up the pieces, worked at First-National, then Artcraft, and finally joining forces with Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, to begin a new studio in 1919, United Artists, which would distribute the films each partner made. His first film for UA, Broken Blossoms, is considered Griffith's masterpiece, closely followed by Way Down East in 1920. These films are dramatically successful without the dubious morality of Birth of a Nation or the needless complexity of Intolerance. His relationship with UA ended in 1924, after Isn't Life Wonderful flopped. Several years of sparse activity followed.
It was during this time that Sid Grauman asked Griffith to participate in the dedication program of the Chinese Theatre on Wednesday, May 18, 1927. Griffith was introduced as the evening's Master of Ceremonies by follow director Fred Niblo. Griffith introduced Will Hays and Mark Pickford, to begin the first program of Sid Grauman's Prologue "Glories of the Scriptures" for the film King of Kings.
Griffith made a pair of talkies for United Artists, both of which flopped. Although other producers and directors offered assignments to Griffith, none of them amounted to anything much. He was presented with an Honorary Academy Award in 1936, and was made a Lifetime Member of the Director's Guild in 1938. Griffith had maintained a modest family seat in LaGrange, Kentucky, and lived there for many years. While visiting Hollywood in hopes of working on a project, he was found slumed over in a chair in the lobby of the Knickerbocker Hotel on July 23, 1948. He died on the way to the hospital.
Poodles Hanneford is widely considered to be the greatest trick horse rider in history. The Hanneford family had been performing in cicuses in Europe as early as 1690. Organized into a troupe of performers in 1807, they did their shows in traveling tents during the summer, and hardtop theatres during the winter.
The Hanneford Family, including Edwin, were appearing in Spain in 1915 when John Ringling caught their act and invited them to join his circus in America. A long string of appearances followed, with family members combining in different ways, depending on what act was booked where.
Poodles drifted to Hollywood, where, in 1927, he appeared in 3 short films, so he and the Family were in the area, and could be included in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Ballyhoo" for the film The Circus in 1928. He made 7 short films that year — pretty popular.
Ruth Harrison and Alex Fisher
Ruth Harrison and Alex Fisher were a dance act, active from the 1920s through the 1940s. Ruth had appeared on Broadway in 1925's The Bird Cage where she performed a pantomime as a character called "Fifine." By 1933, she had teamed up with Alex Fisher and they both appeared in the musical revue Strike Me Pink. They closed the first act with a dance they called "Restless."
Harrison and Fisher appeared as dancers in the Grauman prologue to the film Dinner at Eight in 1933.
They went on to perform in the second staging of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York, where they co-starred with Fanny Brice and Gypsy Rose Lee. One of their dance numbers in the show ("Words Without Music") was choreographed by George Balanchine.
Their last Broadway credit was Michael Todd's 1946 revival of Moliére's The Would-Be Gentleman at the Booth Theatre in New York. Ruth played Mademoiselle Valere, while Alex played the role of a dancing master.
Daniel L. Haynes had travled up to New York City to make his fortune on Broadway, where he appeared in the cast of the musical Rang Tang, in 1927. He was Paul Robson's understudy in the original staging of Show Boat in late 1927. Director King Vidor could not get Robson, so settled for Haynes, casting him for the lead character of Zeke for his film Hallelujah in 1929.
Will Hays, a successful Indiana layer, became the chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1918, and was the campaign manager for Warren G. Harding in 1920. As a reward, he was appointed Postmaster General of the United States in 1921.
It was not to be, however. In 1924, Hays was lured away from the Harding Cabinet in order to become president of the Motion PIcture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), an industry trade association, who were looking for a way to avoid political action over the content of American-made films and the behavior of the people who made them. The MPPDA paid Hays an extravagant salary, and gave him all of the personal publicity anyone could ask for.
Hays sought to establish a nationwide standard of what could be shown in theatres without having individual states interfere with their own censorship boards, as had been done previously. It goes without saying that what could be presented in both the strictest state and also the most lienient state, was not too risqué.
At first, the code was an informal agreement, but without a formal code controlling content, producers continued to sneak racy content into their films.
Prized today, these films are called "Pre-Code" films.
It was during this time that Sid Grauman asked Hays to participate in the dedication program of the Chinese Theatre on Wednesday, May 18, 1927. Master of Ceremonies D. W. Griffith introduced Hays from the stage, who then introduced Mary Pickford, who begin the first program of Sid Grauman's Prologue "Glories of the Scriptures" for the film King of Kings.
The addition of sound to the movies meant that they could be audibly offensive as well as visually. In 1934, Hays formally adopted a set of rules prohibiting just about everything, and set about insisting that all member producers submit their scripts for upcoming films for review by the MPPDA to insure that the "Hays Code" was adhered to. Completed films were reviewed for objectional content as well. If a film failed to receive the MPPDA's "seal of approval," it would be impossible for that film to get theatres to play it, because just about all of the theatres in the country were owned by members of the MPPDA. There was also a list of performers who were "unfit" to appear in films.
Hayes retired in 1945, returning to Indiana, where he died in 1954.
The MPPDA has morphed into today's MPAA, which oversees the current Rating Code Administration's system of G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 ratings.
Musician Wells Hively studied at the Paris Conservatory and the Brussels Royal Conservatory. He also spent some time at the Julliard School. To make ends meet, he became a proficient pianist and organist, accompaning the silent drama. He was the organist for the Sid Grauman Prologue "Ballyhoo" for the film The Circus in 1928.
The Hollywood connection lend to appreances on NBC radio productions.
In 1940, he accepted a position as the head of the Graham Eckes Academy School of Music in Palm Beach, Florida. During this period, Hively composed several works for orchestra, the best known is called Tres Himnos. He toured as the accoanist for opera star Lily Pons for six years, beginning in 1954.
Sol Ho'opi'i is considered to be the greatest virtuoso of the lap steel guitar. Sol was the 21st child — of a large family. As was traditional with native Hawaiian familes, Sol was taught to sing and play percussion instruments before he could walk, and could play ukulele at age three. By his teens, the lap steel guitar became his focus.
Sol made his debut with Hawaiian music exponent Johnny Noble. There is a wonderful story of how Sol, aged 17, and two friends
stowed away on a passenger ship to San Francisco. Upon being discovered, the trio played their music, the hat was passed, and the passengers paid the cost of their fares.
While the other friends returned to Hawaii, Sol moved to Los Angeles in 1924, and formed a new trio with Glenwood Leslie and Lani McIntyre. The Trio performed mostly in nightclubs and made several jazzy/Polynesian recordings by 1928, which is when Sol and "his native comrades" were featured in the Sid Grauman Prologue "The Tropics" for the film White Shadows in the South Seas at the Chinese Theatre.
Sol made many more recordings with various combinations of musicians during the 1930s, and contributed to several film soundtracks. He is well-known for picking up the electric lap steel guitar and developing an original method for tuning the instrument. Confortable with covering standard pop songs with his Polynesean style, his technique was highly infuential — especially in country and western musics.
In 1938, Ho'opi'i joined evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and went on the road with her Foursquare Church. McPherson had spent several years touring the world, seeking commonatilty among the world's religeons, but she was also trying to raise money for her financially strapped empire.
Sol Ho'opi'i's last days were spent playing for various Christian groups in the Seattle, Washington area. He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Hollywood Hills.
Sol Ho'opi'i's recording of George Geshwin's tune "Fascinating Rhythm," was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry in 2012.
Camilla Horn was a dancer, who broke into German silent films, was shipped out to Hollywood, made a few films there, but returned to her native Germany, where she continued to act in films.
Raised to be a dressmaker in Erfurt, by the time Camilla was 18, she began dancing in local beer halls and cabarets. She began extra work in films in 1925, and the next year, she was drawn from obscurity to replace Lillian Gish in a big-budget film of the Faust story by the director, F. W. Murnau.
Horn scored such a hit in Faust that she headlined in three prominent German films before being enticed to "come out to Hollywood" by Joseph M. Schenck, who co-starred her with John Barrymore in a czarist story they called The Tempest in 1928.
It seems that Horn didn't care for Hollywood. She returned to Germany in 1929, and starred in many films in both German and England. Disliking the Nazis, she was hassled by them, but continued appearing in films in Italy during World War II.
When the war was over, she served a three month prison sentance for "travelling without permission." Horn continued to appear in German films, although only sporadically after 1958, then enjoyed a revival in the 1980s.
Arthur Kay is seen here at the conductor's podium at Grauman's Chinese Theatre during the run of The Gaucho.
A classically trained musician, Arthur Kay became well-known for adapting the classical repertory into the realm of operetta and musical comedy. Moving to America in the late 1910s, Kay found himself working in the theatres of Seattle, Washington. By later in 1920, Kay was conducting the popular Sunday morning classical concerts at Sid Grauman's Theatre in Los Angeles (later known as the Million Dollar).
In 1928, Kay wrote the score and conducted for the Sid Grauman prologue and the film The Gaucho. Kay's score for this picture was used throughout the country. He was ingested by the Fox Film Corp. at the beginning of the talkie era and conducted the orchestra for The Fox Movietone Follies of 1929. Since everything was recorded at the same time, vocalists call to him by name in the film, and he shouts back (off screen). He was one of several arrangers working with Max Steiner on his score for Gone with the Wind in 1939.
Kay must have had a fine sense of humor. He was seen occasionally onscreen as conductors, most famously in Citizen Kane. For many years he was the voice of Gandy Goose in the long-running series of cartoons with that character for Terrytoons.
In 1946, Kay became involved with the Broadway show The Song of Norway, credited with writing additional lyrics for the show, along with being its musical director, arranger, and choral director. He would also do the orchestral and choral arrangements for the original Broadway production of Kismet in 1953.
Kay was accostomed to filling any role needed on a film. He composed scores for a number of films throughout the 1930s, then switched to arranging and musical direction in film and television until he retired in 1966.
Julia Keller Harpists
The Julia Keller Harpists gave "pre curtain" music during the engagement Sid Grauman's Prologue "The Glories of the Scripture" for the film King of Kingsin 1927.
Carlotta King was an experienced star of the stage when Warner Bros. production head Jack Warner heard King singing on the radio, tracked her down, liked what he saw, and put her in The Desert Song, which had been released in April of 1929.
King signed a contract with M-G-M, but they delayed the start of her being in Rose Marie (filmed in 1936 with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy), so she walked out on her contract and returned to the stage.
Charles King was a versatile performer in the musical theatre, later becoming among the first performers in early sound film musicals.
Born to Irish immigrant parents, King made his Broadway debut at the age of 22. Possessed of a charming personality and a distinctively reedy tenor with lots of vibrato, King easily became a featured player in musicals on Broadway, apprearing in the George White Scadals in 1921, Little Nelly Kelly in 1922-23, Hit the Deck in 1927-28, and
Present Arms during most of 1928. During that time, he also shot the Marion Davies talkie/musical The Five O'Clock Girl in New York. King also made recordings.
From September, 1928 to December, 1930, King was in Hollywood, working on The Broadway Melody for M-G-M, where he introduced the standards, "The Boradway Melody," and "You Were Meant for Me." He also was in the cast of The Hollywood Revue of 1929, where he introduced the song "Orange Blossom Time."
Since both of these films played Grauman's Chinese, he was asked to make appearances at a number of the special "Midnite Matinees" Grauman added on Saturday nights. King made the following appearances:
King made several other films in 1930 before returning to the Broadway stage for the remainer of the 1930s. King became active in the USO, performing for troops during World War II. He was stricken with pneumonia while in London, and died there, at the age of 57.
Dancer / choreographer Theodore Kosloff trained at the Imperial Theatre in Moscow, graduating in 1901. He began touring with the Diaghilev Ballet Company, where he had an affair with Natacha Rambova, who later became the wife / nemesis of Rudolf Vanetino.
In 1912, Kosloff became the choregrapher for La Saison Russe, which was an opera company touring America with Russian operas. He found ready work on Broadway as well
Sometime later, Kosoloff had impressed American choreographer Agnes DeMille, who had an Uncle named Cecil B. DeMille. C. B. had a scenarist working for him named Jeanie MacPherson, who convinced
him to hire the darkly handsome dancer. His first role was in The Woman God Forgot in 1917. Kosloff appeared in many of DeMille's productions during the 1920s.
By 1927, Kosloff was 37 years old, and was not dancing much. He opened his "Imperial Russian Ballet Schools" in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, which were reportedly successful. The Dancers he led in the Sid Grauman Prologue "The Glories of Scripture" for the film King of Kings, was undoubtedly a cohort of his best student from his schools, who were probably all delighted for a paying gig.
Kosloff in King of Kings, where he may be seen in the role of Malcus, Captain of the High Preist Guards. He is the one who gets his ear cut off and is healed by Jesus — a big role.
Alas, Kosloff's heavy Russian accent prevented him from breaking into sound films. In his later years, he lived in Paris with ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska,
and, after doing the choreography for DeMille's Samson and Delilah in 1949, he supposedly advised DeMille on choreographic matters for his later film of The Ten Commandments in 1956.
Prince Lei Lani (Leilani) and the Samoan Chieftans Born: 1887, in Hawaii
Died: 1971, In the United States
Prince Lei Lani was a major exponent of Hawaiian music and culture to the rest of the world. Born Edwin Kaumualiiokamokuokalani. Rose, he had been made a high chief of the Samoans, due to the occasion of Lani leading a troup of 20 Samoan musicians on a tour of the United States, beginning in 1924. Their featured hula dancer was Leilehua (Aggie) Auld.
Leilani had a rather high singing range, and performed a modified version of what sounded — to western ears anyway — like yodeling. He could play the ukulele and the steel guitar.
The Prince and his Samoan backup singers, made an appearance in the Sid Grauman Prologue "The Tropics" for the film White Shadows in the South Seas in 1928. A premiere dancer in the prologue was Aggie Auld, who was his wife. She lived until 1983.
Alfred Latell was a popular act on the vaudeville circuits as a man who did animal impressions. Wearing meticulously accurate costumes, Latell made much of his long hours of studying the behaviors of various critters, including monkeys and bears, but also parrots and ostriches, and other unlikely creatures for a man to imitate.
Latell began to tread the boards in 1902, always working with a partner, as his animal characters were confined to pantomime. He was in the cast of the Broadway show The Babes and the Baron as early as 1905, and appeared in several shows in the 1910s. His most popular animal character was called "Bonzo, the Bull Pup" and by the early 1920s, was assistend by wife number one, Jane Vokes.
Latell performed his "Bonzo" routine with wife number two, Sylvan Dell, in Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" prologue for the film The Broadway Melody in 1929.
Latell and Dell were able to keep performing this hard-to-imagine but charming act long past the vaudeville era, playing in Australia, where the vaudeville tradition would carry on into the 1950s.
He made an appearance in the 1942 Broadway musical Count Me In in 1942.
Born: Lemuel Golden Troy, October 17, 1870, in Richmond, Virginia
Died: July 29, 1941, in New York City, New York
Eddie Leonard was a minstrel man, which is to say, that he performed in "blackface," and sang songs, danced, and told jokes within a minstrel context. Born a Jewish southerner, Leonard joined the Lew Dockstadter minstrels in the 1890s, then performed with the Haverly Minstrel Troupe.
Leonard was considered "the greatest" minstrel performer — by whatever yardstick was used for judging these sorts of things. He was well-known for milking almost everything; a joke, a bow, a farewell. He made several appearances on Broadway, beginning in 1904. Leonard appeared in a Broadway minstrel show produced by none other than George M. Cohan and Sam Harris in 1908.
His final Broadway credit is for a 1919 show called Roly-Boly Eyes, for which he wrote several of the songs, including the title tune, which became his signature song.
Leonard was undoubtedly in Hollywood working on his headlining role as Des Dupree in Melody Lane for Universal when he appeared as a "guest artist" at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, March 2, 1929. Melody Lane was released that October.
Leonard continued to perform around the country while also appearing in a pair of films, his last being the Bing Crosby starrer, If I Had My Way in 1940.
The LeRoy Sisters
The LeRoy Sisters were dancers, given a solo to do in Sid Grauman's Prologue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 in 1928.
Ted Lewis was a very well-known singer and bandleader, whose shows combined music, comedy and nostalgic stagecraft. His trademark cry was "Is Everybody Happy?"
Playing the clarinet from a young age, Lewis was not exactly a virtuoso. When he was only 17, he managed to learn enough New Orleans Jazz licks to sit in with Earl Fuller's Jazz Band and make recordings in 1917. By that time, he began to study with New Orleans clarinetists who had moved to New York.
Lewis and his band soon (1919) began recording for Columbia Records, whereupon he became among the first white musicians to popularize jazz music to white America, the other being Paul Whiteman.
Lewis and his band were in many Broadway shows and Ziegfeld projects as well.
Lewis and his band must have been out in Hollywood to make their first film, The Show of Shows at Warner Bros., when he was asked to be"honored guest of stage" (along with "Honored guest of screen" actor Charles King at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, April 13, 1929 (presumambly with his band).
Lewis moved from Columbia to Decca Records in 1933. Adopting a battered top hat for his Depression-era shows, Lewis' sense of stagecraft kept his band together long after other 1920s jazz ensembles had folded. Lewis kept his band together into the 1960s.
Earl Lindsay Born: ??
Died: May 12, 1945, in ??
Earl Lindsay was a New York-based choreographer, dance director and occasional composer/lyricist, active on the Broadway stage from 1920 through 1931. He is credited with giving Bob Hope and his then partner, George Byrne their foirst break on Broiadway in the show Sidewalks of New York in 1927.
Sid Grauman persuaded Lindsay to come out and do the staging for the "Broadway Nights" prologue for the film The Broadway Melody at his Chinese Theatre in 1929. He wrote the music and lyrics for the "Seasons" section of the show.
While out in Hollywood, Lindsay worked on four films for Fox and Paramount, then, he returned to New York. He choreographed a show in late 1930 called Luana (which flopped), then got onto the musical revue Ballyhoo of 1930 which did OK, after that, Lindsay disappeared.
Bessie Love was a charming young actress in silent pictures, starring in several films during the early sound era, and continued as a character actor for many years.
When the Horton family moved to Los Angeles in 1915, Tom Mix suggested to Mrs. Horton that her daughter ought to be in pictures, so mom got her in to see D. W. Griffith, who signed her up and changed her name.
Nina Mae McKinney's parents migrated to New York City when she was young; they left Nannie to live with an aunt in Lancaster. Here, she began doing stunts riding on bicycles, and taking parts in school plays.
She reunited with her parents in New York City when she was 15. She got in the chorus in the wildly successful Broadway musical Blackbirds of 1928. King Vidor spotted the beauty in the chorus line, and cast her for the lead character of Chick for his film Hallelujah in 1929.
McKinney was offered a five-year contract with M-G-M, but they did not do much with her, except loan her to other studios. She spent the latter 1930s working in night clubs in Europe, returning to Hollywood to make "race" films, and the occassional role as a supporting character in Hollywood films throughout World War II.
After the war, she lived in Athens, Greece, but moved to New York City in 1960.
Mills Theatrical Shoe Company
Mills Theatrical Shoe Company had forged a strong relationship with Sid Grauman and his theatres — probably dating back to the opening of Grauman's Theatre (the Million Dollar) in 1917. The company is credited with providing the footwear for the "Broadway Nights" prologue for the film "The Broadway Melody in 1929.
Borrah Minevitch is known as the most famous harmonica virtuoso in history. Becoming a music hall performer in Britain, Borrah began developing the chromatic harmonica, which allowed for the reproduction of all 12 notes of the western chromatic scale. Minevitch sold the rights to make chromatic harmonicas to the Hohner Company of Germany for $1,000,000 in 1923 — at age 18!
With that sort of financial security, Minevitch lit out to America, where he was a great success on the vaudeville circuit. His act was filmed and recorded by Lee DeForest and his sound-on-film process in 1923. Before long, Minevich was touring the country with a group of ten harmonica players, known as the Harmonica Rascals.
This act appeared in the Sid Grauman Prolog to the film The Gaucho in 1927. Grauman had renamed the group "Morrah Minnevitch and His Argentine Rascals" to better fit the Argentine theme of the Prologue, "Argentine Nights."
went on to give musical performances in various short films, but also got roles in features, including both One in a Million and Love Under Fire (which played the Chinese in 1937), Rascals (played the Chinese in 1938), and Always in My Heart in 1942. He recorded extensively.
Minevitch retired from performing in 1947, setting up shop in Paris, where he produced films, had a film distribution company and a jazz nightclub "Au Franc Pinot," which is still open today. He is credited with finding U. S. distribution for two of his friend Jaques Tati's films, Jour de Fete in 1949 and Monsieur Hulot's Holiday in 1953.
C. Sharpe Minor at the Robert Morton console of the Garrick Theatre, San Francisco, California, circa 1918.
C. Sharpe Minor
It is probably fair to say that C. Sharp Minor is a stage name for this organist, who played for the Sid Grauman Prologue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 in 1928.
Moran and Mack's "The Two Black Crows" act was a part of vaudeville's "minstrel" tradition, where white performers would wear black makeup called "blackface," and do odious impressions of African-American habits and attitudes.
Charlie Mack had wanted to become a playwright, but chose to begin writing material for himself to perform. Mack fashioned "The Two Black Crows" with actor John Swor as the team's original straight man. George Moran replaced Swor by 1920. Moran and Mack's "The Two Black Crows" appeared on Broadway in the Zeigfeld Follies in 1920, and Earl Carroll's Vanities in 1928-27. So popular was this sort of thing that The Two Black Crows have been credited with being part of the cast of The Majestic Theatre of the Air on Sunday evenings on CBS radio from 1928 to 1930.
Wherever that show originated, Moran and Mack appeared at
"Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, February 23, 1929.
Moran and Mack made recordings for Columbia Records during the 1927 to 1930 timeframe.
In 1929, they headlined in the film Why Bring that Up?. The 1930 feature Anybody's War was based on Mack's 1928 novel Two Black Crows in the A.E.F., which placed the duo in a World War I setting.
It seems that Mack ran the show. In 1930, Moran sued Mack for better pay; the judge in the case ruled that Mack owned the show and could pay him whatever he felt like paying, so Moran quit. Mack hired John Swor's brother Bert (who had been performing blackface in vaudeville for years) to be the new "George Moran." Film appreances after 1930 featured Bert Swor as Moran (2.0).
In 1930-31, Charlie Mack returned to Broadway, playing a chauffer (one assumes in blackface) in
the Kaufman and Hart play Once in a Lifetime.
Charlie Mack died in a car crash, caused by a tire blowout, while traveling with his wife, daughter, Moran 2.0, and Mack Sennett, in 1934. The others survived the incident.
The second Moran attempted to carry on the act after the accident, but the spark had died out. The first Moran died in 1949.
Marice Morgan was dancer, given a solo "The Dance of the Ebony Slave" during the engagement Sid Grauman's Prologue "The Glories of the Scripture" for the film King of Kingsin 1927.
Edith Murray appears to have been a blues singer. She is listed as having a "Torrid Ensemble" (which we figure was a backup band) and did a number called "Hot! (positively)" during the very early run of the Sid Grauman Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody in 1929.
She seems to have had something of a career (the photo we have posted here is from 1934), but nothing has come to light — so far.
John T. Murray was one of those actors who populated comdies in the early days: the crazy professor, the bizarre waiter, the flustered judge.
Originally from Australia, Murray was in Hollywood making films by 1924, usually in supporting roles, but he did star in the occasional short.
Working frequently with Vivien Oakland, the two married in 1918.
Murray and his wife appeared as "Guest Artists" along with Arminda at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, March 9, 1929.
Murray had a sizable career as these oddball characters. Many of his films are decidedly small affairs, but some are familiar to us today: He played
Don Davis, druggist to the Hardy Family in a pair of their films; Broadway Melody of 1940 (which played the Chinese in — you guessed it — 1940); he had a bit part in Foreign Correspondent, also in 1940; and had a part in Boom Town (played the Chinese in 1940 also).
Murray retired from the screen in 1943. He and Vivien opened a bookshop in the San Fernando Valley until retiring to the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, where he passed away in 1957.
His wife Vivien passed away in 1958.
Actor Conrad Nagel was a very popular star of the silent era. Born to an artistic, musical, and well-to-do family. After graduating from Highland Park College in Des Moines, he came to Hollywood, and began reciving roles in films, beginning with playing Laurie Lawrence in a 1918 version of Little Women.
Nagel's easy-going manner and looks made him a staple of all types of silent films. He seemed to fit into almost anything — drama, comedy, period, contemporary — as a contract player at M-G-M, and later at Warner Bros.
Nagel made his first appearance on the Grauman's Chinese stage as the opning night Master of Ceremonies for the film The Gaucho on Friday, November 4, 1927. He was Master of Ceremonies at the "Farewell Midnight Matinee" showing of The Broadway Melody on Saturday, June 15, 1929. He was also the man who signed all of the stars in at the desk during the premiere of Grand Hotel on Friday, April 29, 1932. A fascinating newsreel of this premiere may be seen here.
Nagel easily made the transistion to sound, and became a sort of character actor, appearing in many films, as well as playing M. C. on a number of radio programs. He appeared in many early television programs as well — usually as Master of Ceremonies.
Fred Niblo was a pre-eminent film director during the silent era, under contract to M-G-M and was one of the four people who put together the notion of a Motion Picture Academy.
Born to French parents, Liedtke changed his name to Niblo (why not?), and developed a vaudeville act where he would proclaim, or he would recite poetry, or he would deliver monologues from plays. He did this for twenty years around the globe. Sounds dreary, but in 1901, he married George M. Cohan's older sister Josephine, so he managed The Four Cohans for a number of years before returning to proclaiming.
By 1916, Josephine had died, but the ever-resourceful Fred was in Australia, and filmed a 40-minute version of a Cohan play called Officer 666; he played the lead in the film opposite Enid Bennet, who would become his second wife.
Niblo did not mess around. He started off making features for Thomas Ince for release through Famous Players Lasky, occassionall;y directing his wife Enid, who became something of a star.
He had made a couple pictures for Metro-Goldwyn when they needed a director for their mega-production Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, so that really put Niblo on the map — were could one go after that?
Well, he directed Norma Talmadge in her version of Camille for First National in 1926, then directed Greta Garbo's second U.S. film, The Temptress, then went on to start the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Louis B. Mayer, actor Conrad Nagel and producer Fred Beetson in 1927. Just a couple of weeks later, he participated in the dedication program of Sid Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Wednesday, May 18, 1927. Niblo introduced fellow director D. W. Griffith, who would M. C. the opening presentation of Sid Grauman's Prologue "Glories of the Scriptures" for the film King of Kings.
Vivien Oakland was a stage and screen actor, appearing in countless supporting roles throughout her career. She was under contract with Hal Roach for many years, where she perfected her comic skills.
Born to Norwegian immigrant parents in San Francisco, her father died in 1898. Her mother moved the family to Oakland. Starting out with a vaudeville act with her older sister Edna as "The Anker Sisters," they took the Oakland name when the two joined the Boston Juveniles. Edna changed her name to Dagmar.
After Vivien made one film, Destiny: Or, the Soul of a Woman, in 1915, the two sisters gravitated toward Broadway, making their debut in a musical revue called Over the Top in 1917-18. After marrying fellow actor John T. Murray in 1918, she made appearances on Broadway during the early 1920s, with her final appearance as the lead in The Matrimonial Bed in 1927 (she also appeared in the 1930 film of the play, but in a lesser role).
Returning to films in 1924, she made many silent shorts, starring opposite Charlie Chase, Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel. She would continue working with Laurel and Hardy for many years.
Oakland and her husband appeared as "Guest Artists" along with Arminda at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, March 9, 1929.
Her husband retired from the screen in 1943, to open a bookshop in the San Fernando Valley, but Vivien continued to work in pictures until 1950. They both checked into the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills. John passed away in 1957, followed by Vivien in 1958.
Nona Otero was a dancer. She made her Broadway debut with the Albertina Rasch Dancers in the show Rufus LeMaire's Affairs in 1927. She was in the ensemble for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927 in the 1927-28 season. In late 1928, she was in the line for a musical version of The Three Musketeers (with Albertina Rasch doing the choreography).
Rejoining the Rasch Dancers, she was shipped to Los Angeles, where she was given two solos to perform in the Sid Grauman's Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody: in the section called "Tap and Rhythm" and also in the "Romantic Ballet" with music by Rasch's husband Dimitri Tiompkin. While out on the coast, she and several other Rasch dancers were in a short 2-color-Technicolor short film for M-G-M called A Night at the Shooting Gallery (also with music by Tiompkin) in 1929.
Quitting the Rasch team, she returned to New York to appear in the Broadway show Princess Charming, along with follow ex-Rasch dancer Portia Grafton, but it closed after only 56 performances. After appearing in The Great Waltz on Broadway in 1934-35,
Anita Page entered the film business as something of an exotic, and was headlining in The Broadway Melody, released in 1929, by the time she was 19. She retired from acting in 1936, and lived to the ripe old age of 98.
Anita was born of a Spanish father and a American-French mother, and had a friend who worked in pictures, Betty Bronson, who encouraged her to do some extra work, then, make a screen test for Paramount. She also tested for M-G-M. She was offered contracts by both studios! She chose M-G-M, and when she did, she had her mother along as her secretary, her father was her chauffer and her brother became her trainer.
Her M-G-M contract kept Page very busy, and she co-starred in films with some big names: Chaney, Buster Keaton (Free and Easy in 1930), and Clark Gable (The Easiest Way in 1931), she claimed that she was let out of her contract because she wouldn't go to bed with Irving Thalberg. In 1934, she married composer Nacio Herb Brown, but their union was annuled and lasted only a year. She made only one more film in 1936 — Hitch Hike to Heaven for an indie studio.
Page married Hershel A. House, who was a pilot in the Navy in 1937. They lived in San Diego, California and had two daughters. He died in 1991.
In 1961, Page made a low-budget horror movie. After her husban died, she moved in with director
Randal Malone. She made some more horror films in the 2000s, which is quite a feat. She was the longest surviving star from the silent era, passing away in 2008 at the age of 98.
Pallenberg's Bears were a long-standing circus act, featuring "Bruins that dance, skate, walk tight ropes and ride bicycles like humans." Must be seen to be believed. The group was formed in Germany sometime around 1910 with various animals, but focused on bears before long.
Transferring to America in 1914, Pallenber's Wonder Bears toured the vaudeville circuit. When the fortunes of German-sounding acts began to fade during World War I, Pallenberg and his bears worked with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where they remained a staple.
The Pasquali Brothers appear to have been a rather well-known and successful strongman act, possibly based in Great Britain — some say they originaled in Belfast, Ireland. They are listed as "dancers" in the broadway productions of Vogues of 1924 in 1924, and The Wild Rose (choreographed by Busby Berkeley) in 1926. They appreared in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody at the Chinese Theatre in 1929. Variety mentioned the Pasquali Brothers and the other acts on the bill were all "show stoppers." The Pasquali's moved on from the Chinese before the end of The Broadway Melody run.
Mexican-born tenor Samuel Pedrazza appeard in the Grauman Prologue to The Gaucho in 1927.
Pedraza made several recordings as a vocalist for the Victor Recording Company in 1929 with Manuel Mendoza López. In January of 1931, he sang the song "La Rosita" with Xavier Cugat and His Gigolos, but since Cugat did not have a recording contract at the time, the recording went out under the name of the band Cugat's group did fill-in work for at the Coconut Grove — Gus Arnhein and his Coconut Grove Orchestra.
Pedraza has been credited with providing backing vocals on recordings in Los Angeles in March of 1931 for Calos Melino and His Tango Band.
Born Jose Escobar Perez, Pepito "The Spanish Clown" was a well-known fixture on the vaudeville circuit. As a young art student in Barcelona, Jose saw Windsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strip and modeled a clown character after Little Nemo.
By 1914, as "Pepito," he is performing in Havana, Cuba with the Pubillones Circus. He spent a number of seasons with the Circo Parrish in Madrid, Spain, while also appearing in much of the Spanish-speaking world; Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Uraguay, and also Brazil.
Pepito came to America in August, 1922, and immediately began developing his vaudeville act, which featured his driving a small automobile and riding a tiny bicycle. These became his trademarks.
By 1927, Pepito had worked a lion-taming theme to his act (the lions being costumed people). When Pepito was asked to participate in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Ballyhoo" for the film The Circus in 1928, he used this lion-act for his turn during Grauman's "big show."
Chaplin seems to have had a large role in the "Ballyhoo" prologue. When Pepito's on-stage assistant, Peggy Shorey quit, Chaplin suggested that he work with a lady contortionist who had been hired, Margaret Janet Zettler. She joined Pepeto's act in more ways that one: she married the guy, and they became a very successful act in theatres and nightclubs, where she went by the name Juanita Falcy. Her real name was Joanne.
Pepito enjoyed fishing and motorboating, and even appeared in print ads for the Mathews Boat Company. Pepito and Joanne set up house in Los Angeles, close to the studios, as Pepito would appear occasionally in films, including Annabel Takes a Tour in 1938. On this film, Pepito struck up a life-long friendship with Lucille Ball. A couple years later, she introduced Pepito and Joanne to her new husband, Desi Arnez. Pepito and Arnez hit it off, and soon, they had bought a boat together and were off fishing all the time. Knowing both Ball and Arnez, Pepito was instrumental with the long process of getting I Love Lucy on television and made appreances on it as well.
During World War II, Joanne had begun to teach dancing in her garage in Newport Beach; she had so many students, that she opened a dance studio in Santa Ana, California, eventually buying a house there. After retiring from the road, Pepito and Joanne ran the dance studio until his death in 1975, and her death in 2004.
Pepito has a magnificently researched web site on his and Joanne's lives at: www.pepitoandjoanne.com, run by a former pupil, Melani Motzkus Carty.
Mary Pickford had been asked to oficially begin the career of Sid Grauman's Chinese Theatre, on Wednesday, May 18, 1927. She and her husband Douglas Fairbanks, were involved in the syndicate which owned the theatre with Grauman.
She and Fairbanks were the first celebrities to be imprinted in Grauman's forecourt, and more information on the life of Mary Pickford may be found on her Footprint Honoree page.
Will Prior was a conductor. He was called in to conduct for a pair of the Grauman Prologues: "Ballyhoo" for the film The Circus, and "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 in 1928.
Queen and Harrison
Queen and Harrison were a dancing duo, given a solo to do in Sid Grauman's Prologue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 in 1928.
Albertina Rasch was a well-known dancer and choreographer, who organized traveling dance companies which appeared frequently on Broadway and in films. Born to Russian / Polish / Jewish parents, Albertina was trained at the Vienna State Opera Ballet. By 1911 at age 20, she bacame the primiere dancer at the Hippodrome in New York City, so her gifts were considerable and recognized early.
Rasch formed a troup of female dancers, calling them "The Albertina Rasch Girls" and made an astounding circuit of performances — at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, touring with Sarah Bernhardt, and opening a dance studio and school in New York City in addition to performing in the occasional Broadway production. During this time, she was introduced to composer Dmitri Tiomkin, forming a creative partnership together. They wed in 1926.
Rasch Dancers were trained in the European tradition of great self-discipline and control. Her dance school, overlooking the Hudson River, was so successful, that by 1925, Rasch had formed several ensembles of dancers, who were booked into the deluxe motion picture theatres around the country.
Sid Grauman knew a good thing when he saw it. He booked Albertina Rasch and her dancers for several of his prologues, beginning with the "Broadway Nights" prologue for the film The Broadway Melody in 1929. This was followed by an appearance at the "Billion Dollar Midnight Matinee" for the film The Hollywood Revue of 1929, on Saturday, August 17, 1929. The Rausch Dancers appeared in the film as well. Rasch and her dance troup had several scenes in Grauman's prologue for the film Hell's Angels in 1930. Rasch was lured away from the Chinese Theatre by other projects for a few years, but her dancers came back to appear in the "Christmas Prologue" for the film Little Women in late 1933.
Rasch had considerable success on the Broadway stage in the 1930s. In 1931, a revue called The Band Wagon had a number called "Dancing in the Dark." Rasch had Tilly Losch dance a solo to the tune before a huge mirror on a completely darkend stage. The only thing visible were her long gloves, which were painted with blacklight paint. It was a huge hit, solidifying Rasch's reputation for creative inginuity.
Retiring in 1946, Rasch died after a long illness at the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills in 1967. Husband Dmitri surved her and passed away after remarring in 1979, in London, England.
Jimmy Ray was billed as "The Dancing Waiter" in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Northern Lights" for the film The Trail of '98 in 1928.
Mr. Ray made only two film appearances; as a featured dancer in Sitting on the Moon with Roger Prior in 1936, and as a minstrel player in the musical Dixie with Bing Crosy in 1943.
Ray is on record as performing a soft-shoe act in nightclubs into the late 1940s.
H. Ellis Reed H. Ellis Reed appears to have been a stage actor, credited with participating in the Theosophical Society's 1918 production of The Light of Asia, a massive outdoor pageant, held in rustic Beachwood Canyon, on the life of the Buddha. Reed has gone down in history when he and his father William, were charged by another group with finding a bigger spot for an outdoor amphitheatre. They came across Daisy Dell, which become the location of the Hollywood Bowl.
Reed is credited with being in the 1921 Broadway flop The Great Way, which seems to have been an updating of the Don Quixote story.
H. Ellis Reed is credited as being the house manager of Grauman's Chinese Theatre during the run of King of Kings in 1927.
W. H. Rice and the L. A. Monkey Farm
Not too many animal acts appeared on the Grauman stage, but this one commands attention: "The Sight of a Lifetime: Monkey vs. Dog, courtesy of W. H. Rice of the L. A. Monkey Farm." This was part of the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, May 11, 1929.
The L. A. Monkey Farm was actually in Culver City, and appears to have been a long-standing Southern California tourist attraction. It is generally thought to have been located on what eventually became M-G-M backlot number five, at the corner of Overland Blvd. and Jefferson Blvd., where a shopping center stands today.
Ed and Jenny Rooney Ed Rooney
Born: 1893, in Baraboo, Wisconsin
Died: unknown date, in unknow location
Jenny (Smith) Rooney
Born: 1895, in unknown location
Died: Unknown date, in unknown location
Since 1921, the Rooney's double trapeze act had been considered the gold standard in vaudeville. They were always dressed in white with green accents, befitting Ed's Irish heritage.
Rooney's mother had been completely bowled over upon seeing circus acobats warming up for a show in Baraboo, so the circus was where all five of her children would work, with older brother John training the yourger children tumbling and high wire work.
Ed joined the Gollmar Circus in 1907 at age 14. He became a proficient horse trick rider. He apprenticed with Charlie Siegrist with the Ringling show in 1908, where he was introduced to the flying trapeze. Going out on his own in 1911, doing trick riding and single trapeze, he met 16-year-old orphan trapeze acrobat Jenny Smith, who was in an act with her aunt and uncle. Immediately, they eloped, with uncle objecting. Ringling told the uncle to calm down and get used to the idea — a double trapeze act with such young performers!
So they toured all over, had a son, and appeared together in Sid
Grauman's "Ballyhoo" Prologue for the film The Circus in 1928. Their son John became a dentist in 1939 and joined the air corps in World War II.
Ed and Jenny continued doing their trapeze act, eventually moving in to teaching. Their fates are currently unknown.
Pat Rooney Jr. was the best-known Irish dancer and comic on the vaudeville circuit, along with his dancer wife Marion, and their young son, who became a creditable dancer in his own right.
Born to a successful Irish dancer and singer in vaudeville, Pat, Jr. entered the family business, performing with his sister Mattie. When she married, Pat became a solo act, doing the soft shoe and clog dancing. Rooney, Jr. performed in a number of shows on Broadway in the 1900s. He appeared with childhood friend Marion Bent on Broadway in a version of Mother Goose, which opened at the New Ampsterdam theatre in 1903. The pair became husband and wife, doing well with tap dancing and bantering with each other. Pat, Jr. was considered one of the finest tap dancers in the country. The pair appeared on Broadway in a show called Love Birds in 1921.
Pat Rooney III was on the road with his parents at an early age. Learning all of his father's routines, he eventually became a solo performer.
Father, mother and son appeared at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, February 23, 1929. Pat Rooney Jr. made an appearance at the "Midnite Matinee" for The Broadway Melody on Saturday, March 30, 1929, where he was a "star guest" along with George Sidney, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Joan Crawford.
Marion Brent developed arthritis in the early 1930s. All three made their final performance together at the Capitol Theatre in New York in 1935. divorced sometime in the early 1930s; after that, Pat, Jr. toured for a bit with Pat III; performing a routine which included them dancing together back-to-back — quite a trick. Marion divorced Pat, Jr. around 1937. Pat, Jr. was in the original cast of Guys and Dolls on Braodway in 1950-53. Son Pat III married Estelle Wright. The pair retired to New Hampshire, where they opened a hot dog stand.
Benny Rubin was an actor, comedian, tap dancer, and impresionist. Growing up Jewish on the tough Catholic streets of Boston, Rubin defended himself by taking boxing lessons; the experience put him in the path of many people, and he started forming impressions of them. He had developed an act and was on the vaudeville circuit by 1920. He learned the difference between doing comedy in urban centers, like New York, and the slower pace of places like St. Paul or Omaha.
In later years, he became a regular on all of the Jack Benny radio programs, as well as getting extra work in several of the films of Jerry Lewis. He made many guest appearances on television in the 1950s and 60s — usually as waiters and so on, but scored a solid impression playing Gus Huffle, owner of the Pixley movie theatre in 1960s television show Petticoat Junction.
Rubin published his autobiography, Come Backstage with Me in 1972. He died of a heart attack in 1989.
Sonia (Ella Bluhmfield Butowick)
Born: April 29, 1881, in unknown location in Germany
Died: June 25, 1968, Muskegon, Michigan
Samaroff and Sonia were a well-known vaudeville act. Donat Butowick ran away to join the circus at the age of eight, becoming an acrobat and contortionist. He learned tighrope walking and horse trick riding, then avoided compulsory military service by fleeing to England in 1898.
Joining the George Sanger Circus, Donat toured to South Africa, where he bagan training dogs. Returning to England, he took his dog act on the booming vaudeville circuit.
He moved to America in 1906, then met acrobat Ella Blumfield somewhere in California; the two got married in Los Angeles in 1908.
Together as Samaroff and Sonia, they toured the world with their acrobatic act (with acobatic dogs).
They appeared in the Sid Grauman's "Ballyhoo" Prologue for the film The Circus in 1928.
While in Chicago in 1938, Ella was seriously injured in an automobile accident, causing the Butowicks to give up their act, selling some of their performing animals to DeWaldo's Circus. They tried a return to the boards later on, but it did not pan out, so they retired to their longtime home at the Actor's Colony in Bluffton, Michigan. They had one son, who gave them one grandson.
Frederick Barr Scholl
Frederick Barr Scholl was an organist, who played during the engagement Sid Grauman's Prologue "The Glories of the Scripture" for the film King of Kingsin 1927.
George Sidney was a comic actor in vaudeville, appearing in films from 1924 on. One gets the impresssion that he specialized in playing Jewish characters — for the list of character names from his films of the mid to late 1920s: Abe Potash, Abie Finklebaum, Simon Levi. He became a fixture in 1928 by playing Nate Cohen in a series of "Cohens and Kellys" pictures for Universal. The first one was called The Cohens and the Kellys in Paris. There were six more into the sound era, with the last one, The Cohens and the Kellys in Trouble in 1933.
Sidney continued to appear in comic roles in films, both short and feature-length, with perhaps his paticipation in Manhattan Melodrama from 1934 which will mark his passing. In it, he plays Poppa Rosen, a Russian Jew who mentors the story's two protagonists as young men. His character is killed by a policeman's horse during a street fight.
Born in England, Leonard St. Leo roles on Broad way in 1924's Lollipop, and 1925's George Gershwin / Oscar Hammerstein II musical Song of the Flame where he was a dancer.
St. Leo performed as an acrobat in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Agrentine Nights" for The Gaucho in 1928, suggesting he must have been on the vaudeville circuit during the late 1920s. In films from 1929, he performed in Chad Hanna in 1941 and was an acobatic tumbler in Lady in the Dark and Frenchman's Creek, both for director Mitchell Leisen in 1944. He joined the ensemble as a silt walker in Vincente Minelli's Yolanda and the Thief in 1945.
St. Leo must have tired of Hollywood; he is buried in the Rawlins Cemetery in Rawlins, Wyoming.
William Fountaine, Nina Mae Kinney and Daniel L. Haynes in King Vidor's Hallelujah.
Anita Stewart was an early silent picture star, who also produced her own films first with Louis B. Mayer, then with the First-National studio.
Stewart had found bit part work at the Vitagraph studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey; before long, she became a popular performer.
In 1917, she married actor Rudolph Cameron, who was making films with Ralph Ince, who paired the married couple in many successful films.
She was lured away from Vitagraph by Louis B. Mayer
in 1918. Mayer had been looking for performers who wanted to produce their own films, as Chaplin was doing at Mutual. He gave Stewart her own production company. Later in the silent era, she continued to be a popular star into the feature-length period.
At the "Midnite Matinee" on Saturday, March 30, 1929, along with Sid Grauman's Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody, Stewart was a "Guest of Honor." We do not know what that exactly meant, beyond acknowledging the applause of the crowd.
Stewart found making talkies difficult, and retired from the screen in 1932.
George Stinson "The Singing Cop"
George Stinson is billed everywhere as "The Singing Cop" and seems to attracted much attention to himself by being both a great operatic tenor, but also a professional policeman. He was given lead roles by opera comapnies around the country, and was booked to appear at the "Midnite Matinee" performances of both Sid Grauman's "Broadway Nights" Prologue and the film The Broadway Melody, on Saturday, May 18, 1929.
He performed his "Singing Cop" act in the 1936 film Crash Donovan with Jack Holt.
The only thing known about the Three Freehands is that they were a gymnastic act, who performed on the vaudeville circuit worldwide. They appeared in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Ballyhoo" for the film The Circus in 1928.
Triana and Antoinette
Triana and Antoinette were a dance team, perforing "La Jota Dance" in Sid Grauman's Prologue "Argentine Nights" for the film The Gauchoin 1927.
Sophie Tucker was a signer of comic blues and risque songs; her appreances in vaudeville, nightclubs, films, radio and television made her one of the most beloved entertainers in America.
The Kalish family emmigrated to Hartford, Connecticut, where young Sonya sang in the family restaurant for tips.
When she was 16, she married and had a child. Her husband, truckdriver Louis Tuck, left her. Leaving her baby with her family, Sonya headed for New York City.
Tucker sang in beer halls and saloons, sending money home to support her son.
Graduating to vaudeville, she was forced to perform in blackface, which she found humiliating. But she had discovered the blues and a sense of humor; refusing to wear blackface, she began belting out songs while celebrating that she was a chubby white Jewish girl. Audiences loved her.
By 1909, Tucker was featured in the Zeigfeld Follies, but conflicts with her other female stars in forced her to be pulled from the show. She became the darling of the William Morris Agency, and began recording, which sold extremely well. Having been befriended by the likes of Ethel Waters, in the early 1920s, Tucker began to work jazz idioms into her vaudeville act, with her accompanist Ted Shapiro.
In 1926, she toured Europe. Tucker's recording of "One of These Days" with the Ted Lewis Band sold over a million copies.
Sophie Tucker made the transition to film work as the vaudeville circuit she loved began to die. In the late 30s, she had her own radio program on CBS, and with the rise of television, she made many appearances there, and continiued to tour. She died in 1966.
Texan King Vidor began his career as a newsreel cameraman, and had directed his first fiction film in 1913 with The Grand Military Parade. By 1919, he had directed his first feature-length (50-minutes) film, The Turn in the Road. The hugely successful 1922 film Peg 'o My Heart, brought him a contract at Metro studios (later absorbed into M-G-M), where he would direct the ultra-successful film The Big Parade in 1925.
1928 saw Vidor direct his masterpiece, The Crowd, followed by the very fun Marion Davies picture, Show People. His first sound film was Hallelujah, which had an all African-American cast or realative unknowns. To drum up some excitement for the film, Vidor and his leads made an appearance/performance at the "Midnite Matinee" on Saturday, March 23, 1929, along with Sid Grauman's Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody.
Buster West was what was known as an "eccentric dancer," meaning his dance routines were muscular and virtuosic. Born to Vaudevillian parents, difined the "born in a trunk" experience, quickly outpacing his folks from an early age. Somewhat short and muscular, Buster was a dazzling performer.
Buster scored a large hit on Broadway in the George White Scandals of 1926, and appeared in Paris.
Father and son appreared in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody at the Chinese Theatre in 1929. Variety mentioned the West's and the other acts on the bill were all "show stoppers." The West's moved on from the Chinese before the end of The Broadway Melody run.
After John retired, Buster appeared in several short films throughout the 1930s with dance partner Tom Patricola, then enjoyed a long run on Broadway in the musical Follow the Girls; later, he found a new audience on television, apprearing in the major vaiety shows
Harry White and Alice Manning
Were a vaudeville dance team, who saw success while appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies during the 1920s. They reportedly played the Olympia in Paris, France during that timeframe also.
The duo appeared in the Sid Grauman Prologue to the film The Gaucho in 1927.
Vina Zolle and James Burroughs
We do not know what sort of act Vina Zolle and James Burroughs were (probably dancers), but they appreared in the Sid Grauman Prologue "Broadway Nights" for the film The Broadway Melody at the Chinese Theatre in 1929. They were supported by the Albertina Rasch Dancers.