8/27/07

HOTSY-TOTSY'S OF THE BOOTLEG YEARS--NANCY CARROLL EDITION

nancycarroll

Continuing our lecherous survey of long-dead hotties from the bathtub gin generation ("Oh, you kid!"), we come now to the majorly successful and now utterly forgotten Nancy Carroll. Though she was generally considered cute and adorable rather than dangerous and vampy, she was nevertheless quite a package--and a hell of a singer and dancer and a much better actress than many of her contemporaries.



So what happened to this top-flight early sound movie star to cause her star to dim so quickly? The answer: she was generally regarded as a complete bitch to work with. Difficult, hard to please, pissed off about the roles they made her play.(In those days, of course, actors were not in the drivers seat--studios assigned their stars, who were under contract, whatever they thought was appropriate. Oh, to have that system back in place!) Her star peaked early in the sound era and came abruptly to a halt when Paramount decided they'd had enough. A few years and a few movies later, she was washed up. She hasn't even the dim allure of, say, Clara Bow--who at least is remembered as having personified an era. She kept working on the stage, turned up on a few early television shows, and was dead by the early sixties.



In 1929 and 1930, all the studios put their stars in musical revues--"Show Of Shows" was Warners version, "Hollywood Revue of 1929" was Metro Goldwyn Mayers, Fox (not yet "20 Century") did the "Fox Movietone Follies" (love the decreptitude of that title!) These movies--and in some cases the surviving fragments of them--are pretty much extended vaudeville shows. Some of the numbers are fascinating, many boring, and the non-narrative nature of the enterprise pretty much gets the best of them, inducing yawning, eye-crossing boredom even among the most die-hard geek fans of this sort of material. At their best thought (and I consider the below clip in that category) they showed the stars of their day in lively settings matched with good material.



This clip, from Paramount's entry into the genre "Paramount On Parade", (about which you can learn far more than necessary thanks to the cool page on a Clara Bow website that I've given you the link to) is a song called "Dancing To Save Your Soul"--be patient with the first minute or so which is an interminable (but necessary) introduction by "Skeets" Gallagher. Unlike the previous handful of clips--which might as well have been directed by blind men--this number at least has the semblance of invention. The set, as you will see, is a brilliantly conceived "miniature"--with a huge, oversized pair of shoes to create the illusion of...oh, just watch it. And dig the "rubber legs" dance routine that closes it--the male dancer is Al Norman.



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