Showman (1937)

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SHOWMAN A real showman he was— it was that dash of P. T. Barnum that put the kick into his theatrical accomplishments. Nobody else could have put across that all-time classic of publicity stunts, Anna Held's milkbath— the little French star up to her chin in milk in a Pittsburgh hotel and all the reporters in town standing pop-eyed in the bathroom door. And as much of a genius on color and detail in musical shows as David Belasco was in the legitimate. It was a treat to watch Ziegfeld studying out a new production, with samples of materials spread out in front of him and costumedesigns, light-plots, scripts and actors' pictures all over the room— raw material that would be whittled into an integrated whole by the time rehearsals started. And a great gambler, as most big theatrical figures are. On one occasion I saw him win $200,000 at a sitting in a French casino and then move on to the next place and lose it all in another sitting without batting an eyelash. Not much sense of humor, however. But he did know talent and could pick comics and leave the laughs up to them. Speaking of Ziegfeld and comics reminds me of the letter I got from Will Rogers some time back when I was thinking of putting on a Will Rogers radio show and had asked him to tell me about himself. As a vest-pocket biography I've never seen the beat of that letter— Who's Who would be a lot better reading if they'd only hired Will Rogers as their rewrite man: 191