A LITTLE SONG, A LITTLE DANCE: Musical Revues of the Early ’30s (II)

Welcome to another Musical Theatre Monday and the start of a new week here on That’s Entertainment! Today’s post continues our month long series on musical revues of the early ’30s. This blog has already covered The Band Wagon (1931), As Thousands Cheer (1933), and Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. This month we’ll be highlighting just a few revues from 1930-1935. Last week we covered Three’s A Crowd (1930). Today…


II. George White’s Scandals of 1931 (09/14/31 – 03/05/32)


The eleventh edition in the string of revues known as George White’s Scandals — Ziegfeld’s fiercest competition — boasts a pleasantly memorable Henderson & Brown score (no DeSylva this time, folks) and luminous stars like Rudy Vallee, Willie & Eugene Howard, Ray ‘Scarecrow’ Bolger, Alice Faye (in the ensemble), Everett Marshall, and in her second Broadway musical, Ethel Merman! The sketches, which included bits about the opening of the Empire State building, the iconic “Pay The Two Dollars” skit, and an interview with Willie Howard as a big game hunter, are credited to White, Brown, and Irving Caesar. But while the Scandals may have had a more vested interest in the quality of the comedy (and the music) than the Follies, it was still all about spectacle. Showgirls aside, it’s really about those stars.

Fortunately, these said stars were given some pretty good numbers to put over. The biggest hit from the score is Merman’s “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries,” which became a staple of her act for years. Though she initially sang a test record in 1931, that rendition was never released. The earliest known recording, as heard above, is from 1947.

Merman also had a Porter-esque number entitled, “Ladies And Gentlemen, That’s Love,” which although recorded by Merman as a test in 1931, was again, never released. To my knowledge, she never recorded the song again. The rendition of this fun ditty above is by Stuart Ross and Joe Sargent.

Baritone Everett Marshall had two hits of his own. The first, above, is the haunting, “The Thrill Is Gone,” and the second, below, is the much discussed “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which Marshall sang (in blackface) backed by a choir of angels.

Vallee, meanwhile, had the totally infectious “This Is The Missus,” which he also recorded at the time.

Vallee and Merman teamed up for the romantic “My Song,” which also became a hit for Vallee.

As you can tell, the score is fun (and varied), the stars are great (and individual), and it seems the Scandals of 1931 made for a memorable evening of entertainment. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this rare home movie of Merman performing her classic “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries.”



Come back next Monday for another early ’30s revue! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the first season of The Mothers-In-Law!

6 thoughts on “A LITTLE SONG, A LITTLE DANCE: Musical Revues of the Early ’30s (II)

  1. Back in the sixties, my family had inherited a bunch of old 78s from my maternal grandfather. Among them was a Bluebird label recording of Rudy Vallee singing “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries”, backed with another tune, “Outside”. I have on DVD one of Everett Marshall’s only films, Dixiana, from 1930. This film is roundly criticized by many as being inferior to the similar Rio Rita from the previous year, but I’m one of the oddballs who really enjoy this film, one of the last of the early sound operettas. Marshall’s powerful voice was beautifully recorded, and I believe RKO cast him in response to the popular acclaim of an MGM film, The Rogue Song, which featured another great opera singer, Lawrence Tibbet. Unfortunately, The Rouge Song only exsists in snippets and the soundtrack discs, so there is no way to fairly compare the two films.
    The main reason that The Rouge Song is lost is that it was shot entirely in two-color Technicolor. The original negatives for most films done in this process were discarded many years ago. Even the final color scenes for Dixiana were considered lost for many years, the original negatives for this and another RKO part-color film, The Cuckoos having been found in 1988..

    • Hi, Leslie! Thanks for reading and commenting. Sorry for the terribly late response — I’m just now seeing this comment!

      Check out a restoration of THE ROGUE SONG on Youtube, if you haven’t already.

        • I am unable to offer more than an excerpt of anything that’s otherwise commercially available. However, if you’re looking for something in particular — beyond the Merman clip shown above — let me know and I will be happy to share!

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