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A Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic (1929)

A simple filmed performance featuring Cantor, done up in his stage minstrel makeup, allegedly at the Ziegfeld Theatre Roof Garden, but actually filmed on a soundstage at the Paramount Astoria studio.

Director:

Joseph Santley
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Cast

Cast overview:
Eddie Cantor ... Himself
Mary Eaton ... Mary Eaton
Oscar Shaw ... Oscar Shaw
Eddie Elkins Eddie Elkins ... Orchestra Leader / Master of Ceremonies
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Storyline

A simple filmed performance featuring Cantor, done up in his stage minstrel makeup, allegedly at the Ziegfeld Theatre Roof Garden, but actually filmed on a soundstage at the Paramount Astoria studio.

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3 dimensional | See All (1) »

Genres:

Short | Music

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 May 1929 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Soundtracks

Eddie Cantor's Automobile Horn Song
Written by Clarence Gaskill, Charles Tobias, Dave Bennett and Harry Carlton
Performed by Eddie Cantor
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User Reviews

 
A Broadway legend in his prime
18 May 2006 | by SilentsSee all my reviews

Florence Ziegfeld's famed Midnight Frolics in New York's rooftop theaters are part of Broadway legend. They offered theater goers who could afford the cover charge the chance to be entertained by some of Broadway's biggest stars and prettiest chorus girls in an intimate setting. After the big stage show earlier in the evening, Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor and many other theater legends kept the makeup on, went upstairs and continued telling jokes and singing songs into the wee hours of the morning.

Although the Frolics had gone out of fashion some ten years earlier, in 1929 Ziegfeld recreated a Frolic in New York's Astoria studio for the sound movie camera with Eddie Cantor as the star. It may have been staged just for the camera, but the film has the feel of a live performance with Cantor telling topical jokes and singing three novelty songs in his trade marked high energy style. I got the sense that he wanted to start bouncing around the stage the way he did in his live appearances but that the bulky camera and early sound equipment forced him to stay in one place.

Even so the Cantor personality leaps off the screen and it seems that if Cantor was alive today he would have no trouble as a stand-up comic. This is the 1929 version of what is now the opening monologue on late night TV talk shows. Cantor has a great rapport with the audience that I'm sure would work today. All he would have to do is update the jokes to current issues.

Even so, it is interesting to hear him joke about issues that were in the news in 1929. His jokes about Henry Ford's antisemitism are particularly interesting.

Curiously, Cantor is in black face through the entire performance even though there is no minstrel material in this show. Considered offensive by many even then, black face entertainers were a staple of that era and Cantor frequently "blacked up" on Broadway and in the movies. In addition to any offense that might be caused by the black face makeup, it also keeps us from seeing Cantor's wonderfully expressive face as well as we might, and that's a pity.

This film was considered lost for several decades and apparently survives in one 35mm print from which some new prints have been made. Although that surviving original print has some splices that interfere with some of Cantor's comments, it is in relatively good condition with excellent picture and sound quality allowing us to reach back and see a Broadway legend in his prime.


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