8/23/07

HOTSY-TOTSY'S OF THE BOOTLEG YEARS PART TWO

annpennington

Next on the list of HTILF's comes the adorable and very tiny (under five feet) and usually scantily clad dancer Ann Pennington.

Ann Pennington was another Florenz Ziegfeld star on Broadway, starting in the teens (actually her first Broadway chorus girl credit is in 1911!) and peaking in the late twenties when she was in her mid-thirites--considered quite old for those times, but as you will see in the marvelous clip below, still filled with vitality. Or as they might have said back then "pep!"

In addition to being a stage star and a wonderful dancer, she turned up in a number of silent films--unusual for a Broadway musical star at that time as the two worlds were, for the most part, snobbishly distinct and seperate--and during the sound transition she appeared in a number of significant early musicals. One of them, the lost "Gold-Diggers Of Broadway", continually threatens to turn up--currently only the last reel of this remarkable film is extant, though there might be larger portions of the soundtrack.

By the way, if this kind of thing fascinates you as it does me, learn about the Vitaphone Project. Well worth your time.

The number below, "Snake Hips", is from a movie shot in 1930 (or perhaps 1929, and released in 1930) called "Happy Days."
It was filmed in an early 70mm process called "Grandeur"--another early instance of wide screen about which I know nothing. (Anybody out there know? Hello???) It was directed by Ben Stoloff, whose most distinguished credit remains the Three Stooges first film "Soup To Nuts" (which is really quite strange...) He later directed a series of relentlessly worthless programmers at RKO and disappeared into b-movie producing before disappearing altogether.

Once again, we are in the land of pre-movies, wherin the camera's stare from fixed positions at a production number obviously designed for the stage proscenium. (There is one quasi-overhead angle that isn't quite yet in the land of Busby Berkeley--it occupies more the position of a drunk teetering over the edge of the third balcony.) Although aesthetically this is the cinematic stone-age, the pleasure once again lies in the ability to look at this number and pretend you're in the Wintergarden, or the Lyric Theater one night in the 1920's, watching Ann Pennington go to town...and thinking about which of your favorite speakeasy's you might drop in on after the show...and which of the chorus girls on stage might be your escort du jour...

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