Variety (Jan 1943)

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picTimiES Thirty-seeenth p^kRiBff Anniversary January 6, ld43 Jessel Recalls First Meeting Winchell, Cantor, Gus Edwards, Irving Berlin, Also Gyp the Blood and Rube Goldberg Circa 1910 A Fragment From the Coiiiedian'H Autobiog, 'So Help Me/ to Be Published Soon by Random House — Previewed Here by Permission of the Publisher Thr piiir: IflO. Mv giandf^ilher a tailor. When a cuslomer came ill to have his pants pressed, he very olieii tool; Ihcm o(V. sat down ind co\crcd liimseU with his coat. For going through with this di.scomlort, my grandfather arranged tor grand- nu to bring the j;iiiitoiner a cup ol coHce and a piece of cake. Very often I would be asked to sina a none until the pressing was fin- ished. I shall say only litOe more about my grandparents; 1 loved them too much to try to write about tlicin. For as Davi<J Bclasco once said to me, 'My son, when playing an emotional scene, you must at all times control it; if the scene geU the better of you. an audience feels you are loo sorry for yourself.' When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother was blessed with second childhood. She died ai the age of 87. playing with some little buttons, continuously reliving a scene she had witnessed as a little girl in Prague, of how one day Franz. Joseph, the Emporcr, had rid- den through the streets in his car- riage and everybody had seen him smile to her. Dicouraged bj my success with an audience of one without pants, in my grandfather's workroom. I once went with him to his lodge meeting. The president aniounced that Simon Schwartz had brought his grandson to sing and "tanz" for the members. Before I could oegin, one of the lo'.ge members rose and spoke. •Mr. President, while it is very nice for- Simon Schwartz to bring his grandchild to entertain us, let us not forget that one of our mem- bers, Ignatz Baumgarten, has passed away and has left a wife and three children, with no money and no food, and while it is a fine thing we shall enjoy ourselves listening to this little boy sing, let us flrst think o[ poor Mrs, Baumgarten and iier three children and give them three cheers.' After the cheering, accompanied by my cousin. Henrj'. at the piano, I sang 'Every Morn 1 Bring Thee "Violets'. 'Dearie'. 'I'm Afraid to Go Home In 'The Dark' and 'School Days'. Most of the menibeis of the lodge, being hard of hearing and two card game.s having started during my second number, I was still un- di-.unlcd and left the meeting to see my mother, who was Ihe ticket- seller at a moving picture house called Ihe Imperial, on Il6th Street, oil Lenox avenue. My father had since passed away and though he left a little money, my illne.s,s and au unwise venture. ;Klde<l to my grandfather's now giving away cigars with every lOc prcs.-^ing. left the family in pretty bad shape. ] IlioBtratcd Slide* I was determined that my mother ' 'hen). By 4;eor<;e jessel and tlire<' tl:i.v.< a «eck. He would opin with 10 to try out on Friday and p:i.<.<ibly keep three for Saturday ami Sunday, but he liked my singing. Only the day befove he had hire<l two other boys, a bit older than I, and said pcrhap.s we could get together .niul he would call us the Imperial Trio. The other two boys were immediately sent for. One was an alto singer, the other a tenor. The tenor was Jack Weiner twho is now a Hollywood agent) and (small world) incidentally he's the manager of my ex-lovely. Lois Andrews. The alto was Walter Winchell. who was a handsome little guy with a fairly good voice and was the heart throb of 116th Stieet. The thing we did, even be- fore rehearsing a .<ions. was to decide on a .stage name. In tha'-o day.s no matter wh.-;t your rijihl name was. you called your.self something else. So. Wiener, Winchell & Je.ssel be- came Leonard, Lawrence A: Mc- Kinley, the Imperial Trio. Be:-aufle we ware under 10. Ihe Gerry So- ciety prohibited our singing on the stage, so we sang iii the tiny little piano pit, lo the accompaniment of Harry Carroll, the comparer and later, Phil Bakei', Ihe accordionist- comedian. The popular songs of that time were 'Pony Boy'. 'Carrie', 'Meet Me Timight In Dreamland', which we sang, and my solo was a song of the racetrack called 'I'd Rather Be the Lob.stcr Than The Wise Guy'. We did pretty well in the after- noons, but the night audiences rc- .sented our act becaase the lights were put on. thiLs interrupting a great deal of .spooning and .sparking, which was the main rea.son for going to a picture show in those day.s. So the people in the little balcony often gut quite uneasy. To stop thi.s disturbance, the manage- ment engaged a bouncer, later known as 'Gyp The Blood', who was very quietly bounced off him- self some years later a.s one of the a!!sa.ssias of Herman Ro.'-enthal. the Metropole Hotel gambler. During one of our performances the customers upstairs were decid- edly disturbed by Ihe light going on .-.nd cutting in on their cuddling. Added to that. Winchell. who was the lead .singer isinginu the actual melody) was missing, .so that a song with a tenor and a baritone singing harmony without the actual melody wcs not awfully good. However. Gyp the bouncer .<(artcd his cus- tomary duties of bouncing the I >vy- dovies out of the balcony. Tlie first couple he came to were Winchell and a girl called Eva. who were in a clinch. I ocached on him ; and told McKlbben iHe has gotten I j even with me several limes since burger at a cci-tain i-csluurant. They should haxe had a sign over that restaurant, a la Sari Carroll, 'From this restaurant walk the sickest peo- ple in the world.' The hamburger that I had had some added Ingredi- ents such as matches and a little tobacco and I became violently ill. I have no fear in mentioning the name of this restaurant—but charity forfends. If it still exists some- where, let them do what they will: I also have a lawyer. have the boss of the Imperial hear me sing, for in those days every little moving picture 'house had songpluggers who would .^ing their latest numbers accompanied by il- lu.strated slides thrown on the screen. For example, let us say. 1 Dreamed in the Gloaming of You' la hit ballad uf ciay.^). .\s the singer would begin the chorus, a colored picture on the .screen would show a good looking guy looking up at the moon. Or per- haps the song was 'In Sunny Italy', and there would be a picture uf an Italian with » great moustache, selling bananas through Ihe streets. years ago, playing 60 one-night stands, living on a special train and only talking to each other on the stage, venting our displeasure at each other through the audience and sending messages only through our valets. In Houston. Texas, we appeared at lite Town Auditorium, opposite which Ihcre is a great church and on its roof a large elec- tric .si.un. re.-idiiig Jesus Saves. I had hcfrr' Fddic. throueh the dressing room door, tell his valet, that if I stripped cnlliiig glamour girl: on the telephone. I might have something to eat in my old age. When I came on the stage that night to do my monolog. I told the audience That's an in.spiring elec- tric .sign the street, but It should have added to It. 'But not like Cantor.' Today we are very friends, since we both have no sisters or brothers and we address each other ns Brother when we write. Most of this last paragraph been in Cantor's book or his mvn life. I print It because I ■douhi if many people read his book. (Copi/Hflht, George Jes.sdi Flo Marks' Shorts Florence Marks, formerly wiih ihe Edward Bernays publicity odiic. i<, now producing and directing lUm shorts for the Oflficc of War Informa- ' tion. She was for .several years with the NBC press deparlnicnl She is the wife of Bo.slcy Crowih- er. N. Y. Times film critic . A Record of Which to Be Proud More Thau a Year Before Pearl Harbor the M. P. Industry Was Mobilized—^Then the WAC Continued the Real War Job A Nickel Far Jessel I The trio was fired. McKibben de- cided he would have nothing but vaudeville and no more illustrated songs. He could get a real act for what he was paying u.s. Our .salary was $12 for the trio with Sunday extra at 10c a .song, bringing it up lo $13.50. I was kept on alone at $.') flat a week, with my first billing in front of the theatre, which read 'It's worth 5c alone to hear little Gcorgie Jes.sel sing'. About 30 years later Winchell wrote 'And it still goes'. The Imperial Trio met again, however, in Tin Pan Alley. I had gone down to learn a song I An Cp-aad-Ccmlnf Sanfsaith | Before this ptomaine episode, we, the trio, bad been up in the offices of Gus Edwards. His was the mar- ket for kids who had any stage abil- ity, for not only was he the great sentimental songwriter of his time, but he had and was producing many vaudeville acts with kids, many of whom have reached great heights through the years. We all sang for Gus. I sang a song of an up-and- coming .songwriter, called Irving Berlin, who had authored "Yiddle On the Fiddle.' To make an impression for such a famous per- son as this Gus Edwards. I was at this age (10) wearing long trou.sers. a Windsor tie. carrying a cane and carrying a makeup box under my arm. not only to make sure tliat everyone knew I was an actor, but that I might be taken for a midget should someone wish to engage me and was afraid of the Garry So- ciety laws fibout children on the stage. Before my song, I took Mr. Edwards' hat, which went way down over my ears, and added a catch- line of my own to the song, which caught his fancy. He took our names and addreu^e.-^ and I was .sent for a few days later. I found myself i;i Gus Edwards' waiting room with a young man I had met before. He had so often appeared at the Imperial, one week doing imitations, another week a monolog in and another week a blackface act. and I thought he was about the nerviest fellow I had ever seen. He asked me what I was doing there. I told him that I had been sent for by Mr. Edwards for a job. I asked him what he was doing there. He said he was going to do some of his stuff and I added that I doubted whether Mr. Edwards had that much time. When the door opened, my versatile friend, his eyes almost knocking Edwards down, introduced him.self: 'Mr. Ed- wards. I am Eddie Cantor.' This lit- tle fellow can tell you about me. I would like to ..;t in one if your new acts.' 'What do you do.' said the pro- ducer. Cantor an.swered. "What do I do? such a question. I imitate Junie McCrea. Harry Thompson. Walter C. Kelly. Fxldie Leonard.' 'That'.s very good.' said Mr. Ed- wards. 'But I intend producing an act called 'Benches in the Park' ,ind I don't need any imitations. I am looking for a man to play a tramp.' 'For Heavens sake.' screamed Cantor. 'A tramp. I was brought up with tramps. I played the damdest tramp you ever saw in your life.' etc. P. S. We got the job. By FRANCIS S. HARMON (KxKculive Vice-chairman, WAC) Bonds bought at theatres are be- ing turned into tanks, airplanes and guns. That old wash boiler you saw in front of a theatre may now be a piece of ordnance or ammunition. The motion picture industry, with- out seeking kudos, is doing its share in winning the war, as are many other millions of Americans. The industry, too, will play a role in the .securing of a just and lasting peace. The following is just for the record, and relates the highlights of the activities of an 'enlisted' industry. More than a year before tlie Jap attack on Pearl Harbor, the industry foresaw the need for a unit whose function would be cooperation with the various Government agencies. To this end, the Motion Picture Committee Cooperating For Defense was formed. After the at- tack, 'defense' was out of date, and five days later the War Activities that a well-known name and rnc« would aid. And Hollywood is teach- ing camouflage to dttsses of offlcera, making training Alms for all scrv< ices (possibly 2,000 such will bt needed for 1943). and giving demon- stralions to the army in the creation of smoke and fog. The Hollywood Canteen Is a splendid fait accompli, and has hosted thousands of United Nations Service men. Tlie cosmopolitan quality of indus- try product, and the intensive re- search that goes into making of films dealing with foreign countries, have aided our high command in its war strategy. 250,«00 feet of film dealing with the terrain of various battle fronts have been made avaibhie to ll;e War Department for sludy. as have the contents of .studio research denarlments. r" Ualfled rurpvw woman) across the country into Its fold. To handle expected .stepped-up activity for '43, 31 exchange area public relation chairmen have been Canter's Tutelage This production never material- ized, but Cantor immediately started his inventive mind working. He suggested that I play a baby in a carriage. He would come along and flirt with my nurse and to make a hit with her. he would do all his J The Public Relations Division of Ihe WAC has undergone un expan- Conunrtt^Motiin^icllVelndustry i^ro»S^t almost every took over. . | l>»''''"c'ty and exploitation man (or On the theory that voluntary aid makes compulsion unnecessary, the industry has endeavored, • whenever possHile. to 'move in' on a need be- i „_„;,,,.j „,i,„ • , , fore it actually became one. Know- •'" P""^ ing that the average American. ;„!'''='<y«hamnen m each city of 25.000 pre-uniform day.s. drew a large i "f'""!,'P°P"}» '°"- ^''v amount of his enterlainment enjoy-i "^y* eommiltees, ment from going to the movie.s. one '^""^^ nand\e WAC on of the WAC 'items' was the '"P^'^"'*^ campaigns, slanted for local donation of 1.200 16-mm. prints of r""""^?*""'- With Government current Alms to tlie War Dept. (or ] "B*'"^'"'; "^oie and more Inclined to free .showing lo men in uniform : efforts to showman ronjiir- overseas. Recently, an additional ' °' industry personnel trained gift of 3.500 prints was made, bring- i"^a* art, this group will be called ing the total to 4,700. | upon to deliver repeatedly for the Barring inevitable difficulties in ! '^°'"',"*/'|f''' di.stribution and delivery of raw i . °' above-mentioned activi- stocks for these prints, they've been [I*-': which, due to space getting places as far apart as Ice- ''"'"ations, have been excluded. Bre land and India. Australia and Ithe industry's trade Alaska. Laudatory comments from ' P'"ess. The press's seri'ice. in addf- army men. from General Dwight D. I beine informative and cdu- Eisenhower to his buck private.s. : "tive, has been large. F^ch cam- have attested to their value as ; P^'K" ">e '"dustry has taken on has morale builders. Hedy Lanmrr's :''^en launched with free advorlise- throaty 'I Am Tondelayo' may very imciils in the various papers, totalling well have been uttered, by this lime. | more than 100 pages, in the exact setting in which the j Bonds will continue to be sold and author placed it. ].scrap matinees will vontiiuie lo be. -'Hime-Frbnl Heroes' AH 1Prn""'',,V"r°" " l'"'',^ I method of collecting scrap. United 'Home front hero." a war inspired : Nations Week, which will be held could be applied to virtually ; Jan. 14 through 20. will be one of every theatre in the country on Ihe ; the biggest jobs Ihe iiiduslrv has I basis of Irsl year's activities. 16.463 ^ tackled. The colleclion of money in ifllm houses, including nearly every | theatres for the .stricken civilians 9l regularly operating theatre in the [ nations will be matched in im- country. are using the WAC to help porlaiice by the educational value of win the war. Theatre nien are cx- ihe campaign. . hibitors of government film, dis-1 .i , , . ., . „ , I players of government posters: war f ^^^.l' ^P;'' bond and .stamp salesmerr.some 4.000 ^^' Cro th '° t theatres are officiaUy designated ""^ ^'°f , ^housh in pas yoais houses of i.s.sue): .scrap colleclors: ZZ^^J^ ""'^h f-" ih... fund-raisers for such groups as the "rganization. ih.- Apnl Red Cross. USO. Armv and Navv i "^"f fP' ^1 "'^ ""'.1' " Emergency Relief, and the March of-lR/^f ' <'M>ecled to ex- Djmes. jceed in zeal and productiveness any ~. . , tbat has gone before. The preponderance of ncwsreel mother that in.stcad ol a man cum ing there to sing one night a week 1 could be engaged for every ; iter- noon and nijht permanently. I Cradle of Ihe Urcat The man who ownea the theatre was Clarence McKibben. Me was n very .stem, good looking man. He said he was thinking: of putting I was that a young cartoonist was to taught me in how to attack an au- try out an act drawing his pictures dience (I also owe him .some money and the booking manager of the but I And no time, being so occupied Academy was afraid that might not with my literary work, to remember be enough and suggested to have a such things). kid sing in the box while the draw- I We were to become great friends ing was going on. That young car- later to be partners and then to toonist was Rube Goldberg. I never flght and make up. knock and kid c fulfilled thai engagement for lo eel- each other on the stage and radio ^l ebMte our meeting. Winch^lV !go on a record-breaking tour vaudeville into the Ihralie for Iwo Wicn«^r and 1 went to have a ham- ihroughout the country only a few clips for the past year has dealt, one way or another, with the war. Only 20?; of the product of (he five i companies Involved was of a do- mestic, non-war type. Latin-America gets special newsreels and United Newsreel, Inc.. distributes a flve- company-made reel. In various languages, to nations whose screens are open to axis propaganda. Hollywood has contributed its glamor lavishly lo personal appear- ances in army camps both here and abroad, to bond-selling stints, and. In fact, to almost any war activity One of the basic needs, as has been shown by increased attendance rer- jords at the nation's boxoffirc^. is a .steady supply of (llni entertainment, both for America and its allies. War plant workers need the relaxation that Ihelr neighborhood ihe.itre affords. The industry as a whole has its problems, and, as the war proceeds. problems may increase. of them, however, should be in.'-nr- mountable. Showmen are resourceful, ac well ns patriotic.