9/16/16

'GAY LOVE': A LIONEL HAMPTON CAMEO



Dig Lionel Hampton, age 18, playing the drums in a mixed-race band (the first ever filmed?) in the above clip from the 1929 RKO film "The Delightful Rogue". The song, performed by Rita Le Roy (a name that sounds like its straight out of "Singing In the Rain"), is called "Gay Love" and was written by a young Oscar Levant and Sidney Clare. (The young Levant made a cameo last week in this blog when he appeared playing piano behind Hal Skelly in the clip where Skelly goes nuts while singing to his ex-wife).

There's no mistaking it--the drummer is Hamp all the way. The impish and joyously ambidextrous showman is already on display and the editor seemed to delight in his antics as he keeps cutting back to him, giving the young unknown more screen time than you'd expect. Starring along with Le Roy was the wonderfully (and absurdly) named silent star Rod La Rocque (which sounds like the name of a silent movie star in an episode of 'The Flinstones'), a man who was as famous as any star of the twenties and who married the equally famous (and absurdly named) Vilma Banky in one of the most famous weddings of its time. Weirdly, the marriage didn't end in a flurry of gunshots, drug abuse or drowning in booze and pills. La Roque retired genially from films and became a real estate broker, working in partnership with his equally famous, once exotic, now very tame wife. The couple stayed married until his death in 1969. Banky lived until 1991. Rita Le Roy quite acting in the 1930s and opened a modeling agency, surviving until age 92. What the hell went wrong with this crowd? They all ended up happy and anonymous and Lionel Hampton, the kid playing drums in the corner, wound up being the superstar.

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