“Footlight Varieties”

Three minute excerpt form “Footlight Varieties,” 1951 (RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.)

(Coincidentally and intriguingly Weegee’s work on a few films, made around 1950, in Hollywood, a few crime photos in “M” and distorted traffic and people in “Footlight Varieties,” were displayed on television, as television, in the films. The new medium of television on the old medium of film; or the old medium/entertainment of vaudeville, and perhaps photography, presented on the new medium/entertainment of film… Experimental film as a source of humor… Weegee the avant-garde-ist and experimental-ist.)
(And the photo he makes as a street photographer in “Every Girl Should be Married” is presented on the front page of a newspaper in the film… Weegee the multi-media-ist…:-)

“After ‘Yellow Cab Man,’ I did trick photography assignments for several films, including ‘Footlight Varieties’ for RKO. That was a series of shorts put together like a revue with Jack Paar as the master of ceremonies. Jack Paar used this film years later when he auditioned for the ‘Tonight’ show at NBC.”
Weegee by Weegee, p. 100

AFI Catalog of Feature Films:

Special Effects: Weegee (Elastic lens eff)
“…Paar discusses the growing influence of television on popular culture, as scenes featuring unusual visual effects are shown on two television sets situated on the stage…”

Release Date: Apr 1951
Premiere Information: San Francisco opening: 21 Mar 1951.
Production Date: began 25 Jul 1950

Summary: From a theater stage, master of ceremonies Jack Paar greets the audience, then introduces radio quartet The Sportsmen, who sing three numbers. Next, Paar discusses the growing influence of television on popular culture, as scenes featuring unusual visual effects are shown on two television sets situated on the stage. Posing as a radio contest emcee, Paar then introduces comedian Red Buttons, who performs a routine about his public school days.
An excerpt from the short film He Forgot to Remember is next: When his wife Vivian catches him jitterbugging with a young woman in a nightclub, Leon Errol, who is supposed to be on a fishing trip, feigns amnesia. The next day, a seemingly concerned Vivian insists that Leon be seen at home by Dr. Twitcham. After the doctor concludes that Leon is actually suffering from dementia, a seductive woman named Barbara arrives and informs a startled Leon that she is his wife. Vivian soon discovers Barbara hiding behind her couch, and the two women start to argue, then Vivian suddenly offers to sacrifice Leon to Barbara. Unknown to Leon, Barbara is Dr. Twitcham’s nurse, and both she and the doctor are helping Vivian teach Leon a lesson. Their ruse climaxes when Barbara pretends to shoot Vivian, and two policemen storm in to question Leon. Believing that Vivian is on her deathbed, a contrite Leon finally confesses his deception. Vivian responds by hitting Leon over the head, which results in a genuine case of amnesia.
Back in the theater, dancer Inesita performs a flamenco number. Paar then provides humorous offscreen commentary as excerpts from a 1909 silent film, titled Confidence, or Beautiful Romance of a Nurse , are screened. Next Paar introduces pianist Liberace, who plays a classical piece as well as a boogie number. Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats perform next and are followed by a comic rumba routine featuring Paar and dancer Grace Romanos. In a film excerpt, Buster West, Melissa Mason and several pairs of black jitterbuggers perform a hillbilly-themed dance number. After The Sportsmen sing a final number, Paar bids the audience good night.

Special Effects: Weegee (Elastic lens eff)

Note: The film’s title card reads: “Footlight Varieties A New Musical Revue Including Highlights from RKO Film Hits.” Footlight Varieties was the third and last compilation film released by RKO between 1948 and 1951. The previous two pictures, Variety Time (1948) and Make Mine Laughs (1949), also featured Jack Paar as emcee (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). The Leon Errol excerpt was taken from a 1944 short RKO film entitled He Forgot to Remember . George Bilson produced the short and Hal Yates directed and co-wrote it. Frankie Carle’s “La Paloma” number first appeared in the 1947 RKO short film Carle Comes Calling , directed by Jack Scholl. The silent excerpt was taken from a 1909 American Mutoscope and Biograph Co. short entitled Confidence , directed by D. W. Griffith (see AFI Catalog. Film Beginnings, 1893-1910 ). Some of the actors listed above for Confidence may not have appeared in the excerpt. The number featuring Buster West and Melissa Mason first appeared in the 1938 RKO film Radio City Revels , directed by Ben Stoloff.
According to HR news items and production charts, the following performers were cast in the picture: Red Nichols and his New Orleans jazz band, The Elder Lovelies from Ken Murray’s Blackouts , Pat Hall, Mona Knox, Sue Casey, Blanche Taylor, Suellen Wiere, Spec O’Donnell, Sara Serenado and Wendy Waldron. The appearance of these performers in the final film has not been confirmed.

Cast: Leon Errol (Leon Errol)
The Sportsmen
Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats
Frankie Carle and His Orchestra
Red Buttons
Buster West
Melissa Mason
Grace Romanos
Dorothy Granger (Vivian Errol)
Patti Brill (Barbara)
Emory Parnell
Elaine Riley
Byron Foulger (Dr. Twitcham)
Harry Harvey (Leon’s friend)
Jack Paar (Himself)
Confidence excerpt: Florence Lawrence (Florence)
David Miles
Herbert Yost
Charles Inslee
Arthur Johnson
Owen Moore
Bill Williams

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Director: Hal Yates (Dir)
Jack Scholl (Dir of “Carle Comes Calling” excerpt)
Ben Stoloff (Dir of “Radio City Revels” excerpt)
D. W. Griffith (Dir of “Confidence” excerpt)
Doran Cox (Asst dir)
Producer: George Bilson (Prod)
Writer: Hal Yates (Leon Errol scr)
Felix Adler (Leon Errol scr)
Photography: J. Roy Hunt (Dir of photog)
Frank Redman (Dir of photog)
Jack MacKenzie (Photog for “Radio City Revels” excerpt)
G. W. Bitzer (Photog for “Confidence” excerpt)
Arthur Marvin (Photog for “Confidence” excerpt)
Art Direction: Walter E. Keller (Art dir)
Film Editor: Edward W. Williams (Film ed)
Jay Whittredge (Film ed)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
Norman Bennett (Mus supv)
Sound: Frank Sarver (Sd tech)
Special Effects: Weegee (Elastic lens eff)
Country: United States
Language: English

“Footlight Varieties,” 1951

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