— Being the fifth set of illustrated records of the Ziegfeld Follies (1923 thru 1926).
The Follies of 1923 opened at the New Amsterdam on October 20th, and ran for 233 performances. The music (by Victor Herbert, Rudolph Friml, David Stamper and others) was characterized by Variety as "null and void," with the most memorable numbers being "Shake Your Feet," "Little Old New York," and Eddie Cantor's "Oh Gee! Oh Gosh! Oh Golly! I'm in Love."
Yes, Eddie Cantor was back! Ziegfeld, recognizing that this edition was, well, uninspired, he ended his feud with Cantor, who agreed to make an uncredited appearance during the opening weeks.
Credited headliners included popular singer and multi-faced comedienne Fanny Brice...
...husband/wife vaudeville dance team Bert & Betty Wheeler, whose career received a big boost from this appearance...
...former heavyweight boxing champion James J. Corbett who, 20 years after his retirement from the ring, was now known popularly as "Jim Corbett, that handsome leading man" on stage, and poised for a successful film career...
...pert little dancer/actress/comedienne Ann Pennington, a Follies regular and consistent audience pleaser...
...and Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, which would have looked much like this 1921 photo from the sheet music of "Wang Wang Blues," one of their early hits...
...whereas, this is how Conductor Whiteman appears in my old memories.
The Follies of 1923 had some pretty good players, but not much to play with in terms of a cohesive production. But an Irish comic by the name of Lew Hearn brightened a few sketches...
...and no doubt Ziggy was grateful for the beauty and charms of his Ziegfeld Girls.
Here's just a handful of beauties who graced this edition:
I found the following picture of Edythe Baker, a Ziegfeld Follies pianist known for pianologues that ran the gamut from classical to syncopation.
I have heard and read descriptions of the many Follies girls who played musical instruments — not just drums and tambourines, mind you, but all the band and orchestra instruments. Mr. Ziegfeld had musical numbers choreographed specifically to show off the instrumental talents of his beauties, and I assume that somewhere there exists photographic evidence, but I have yet to find it.
Now on to the 1924 edition...or I should say, the 1924-25 edition because, what started out as the Ziegfeld Follies of 1924, actually ran for two seasons, with performers and music and sketches changed along the way.
This was the first edition in 10 years with sets designed by anyone other than Joseph Urban. Scenery for this edition was credited to Ludwig Kainer, John Wenger and others. Julian Mitchell staged the show. The score was written by Victor Herbert, Raymond Hubbell, David Stamper and Harry Tierney, with lyrics by Gene Buck, Joseph M. McCarthy and others. At first, this production suffered from the "too many cooks" syndrome, and early critics rated it as substandard. But as the show ran for two seasons, it was bound to get better. And if later reviews are any indication, it improved dramatically.
Topping the bill was Mr. Follies himself, Will Rogers (who, with William Anthony McGuire, co-wrote this production)...
...as well as the versatile and very popular Ann Pennington.
This edition marked the final Follies for series veterans Rogers and Pennington. Replacing them at the end of the first season were Follies faves, comics Ray Dooley and W. C. Fields. (Doesn't he look ready to strangle her?)
Featured was...oh-oh! Trouble ahead!...Frank Tinney.
Remember Mr. Funshine, that bouncy little bundle of infidelity? Well, he and the beautiful Imogene Wilson were having an affair when Imogene learned that the little two-timer was already married, and she poisoned herself.
Naturally, the press had a field day with the news, which embarrassed Ziggy. But hey! It sold tickets.
Other featured players in this edition included acrobatic dancer/actor Lupino Lane, a young British performer renowned for his character versatility...
...actress/singer Vivienne Segal, whose only Follies appearance was in this edition. She is best remembered for her work in the 1940s, beginning with her creation of the role of Vera Simpson in Rodgers & Hart's Pal Joey, opposite Gene Kelly in the title role.
The highlight of this edition was a British act, The John Tiller Girls. Precursor to the Radio City Rockettes, Tiller Girls were known as precision dancers, famed for the synchronized routines created for them by Dance Master John Tiller, who operated dance studios in London, Paris and New York, and had several different dance troupes performing around the world at any given time.
The big voice of actress/singer Ethel Shutta (pronounced "shoo-tay"), made a very big hit in this show. Like Ms. Segal, Ms. Shutta's only Follies appearance was in this edition, but she came to prominence in other musicals and on Jack Benney's radio show. One of her Follies solos was entitled "Eddie, Be Good." Most reviewers didn't think the song was particularly good but, like everyone else, they certainly liked the way Ethel Shutta sang it.
Some of us oldsters were privileged to see her when, at the age of 74, in the original production of Sondheim's Follies, she made her Broadway comeback in the role of Hattie, belting out "Broadway Baby," a song based on her life and written especially for her by Stephen Sondheim. Here are the memorable lyrics:
I'm just a
Walking off my tired feet.
Pounding Forty-Second Street
To be in a show.
Learning how to sing and dance,
Waiting for that one big chance
To be in a show.
I'd like to be
On some marquee,
All twinkling lights,
To pierce the dark
From Battery Park
To Washington Heights.
All my dreams will be repaid.
Heck, I'd even play the maid
To be in a show.
Hey, Mr. Producer,
I'm talking to you, sir;
I don't need a lot,
Only what I got,
Plus a tube of greasepaint
And a follow-spot!
I'm a Broadway Baby,
Slaving at the five-and-ten,
Dreaming of the great day when
I'll be in a show.
Making rounds all afternoon,
Eating at a greasy spoon
To save on my dough.
At My tiny flat
There's just my cat.
A bed and a chair
I'll stick it till
I'm on a bill
All over Times Square.
If I stick it long enough,
I may get to strut my stuff
Working for a nice man
Like a Ziegfeld or a Weismann
In a great big
As the 1924-25 edition ran for two seasons, it was only natural that, because of upcoming commitments to other shows, some of the Ziegfeld Girls would require replacements at the end of the first season. But after a pickup rehearsal or two, cast changes worked seamlessly — a credit to their professionalism.
Here are a few of the beautiful and talented ladies of the Follies of 1924-25:
I can't identify the girls in the photo below, but I knew you'd want to see these spectacular headdresses.
The following scene depicts a musical number entitled "I'd Like to be a Gardener in a Garden of Girls."
Near its opening, the Follies of 1926 was was so uneven that even Ziggy couldn't pull it together. Instead, he renamed it NO FOOLIN' — Ziegfeld's American Revue, and brought it into the Globe Theatre where it ran for 108 performances.
I'll be back soon with the final two editions of the famed Follies: 1927 and 1931.
But right now, with the help of a couple of my favorite old vaudeville comics, I leave you with Halloween greetings — one for the ladies...
...and one for the gents.