The Making of 'Mary Poppins
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“You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one”.
The Eddie Cantor Story (1953)
After his success with The Jolson Story, producer Sidney Skolsky conceived of another biopic that would also be about one of early 20th Century’s major musical stars of stage and screen who occasionally performed in blackface. To bolster the film’s chances, Skolsky would write the story himself and hire the same director of The Jolson Story. What could possibly go wrong?
Framed by the real Eddie Cantor watching a preview screening of his biopic, the film covers the entertainer’s life from his hardscrabble childhood through to the fame and fortune he achieved on Broadway and later on radio. By his side throughout is Ida (Sweet as Apple Cider), who gradually grows tired of the lack of time Eddie has for his family. Whether it’s the Ziegfeld Follies, stage musicals or radio shows, Eddie Cantor is always ON. This biopic’s fatal flaw is that Keefe Brasselle’s performance falls into the same trap.
For while Brasselle is entertaining enough on stage mimicking Cantor hits, he continues the schtick in the domestic scenes. Not only does he roll his eyes and clap excitedly like a hyperactive child, his overt facial contortions seems to be catered for those who can lip read. Also appealing to the hard-of-hearing is Jackie Barnett, who approximates Jimmy Durante’s gruff voice by yelling every line he delivers.
The success of The Jolson Story spawned a sequel and revitalised Al Jolson’s career. It’s a wonder that this movie didn’t have the opposite effect on Eddie Cantor’s popularity.
as Eddie Cantor
as Jimmy Durante
as Will Rogers
as Eddie Cantor
Though Eddie Cantor gave the script his approval and actively participated in the production, shortly after the film’s premier he was heard to comment that "if that was my life, I didn't live".
Biopic focuses on Cantor’s stage and radio careers, including his starring role in 'Whoopee'. Like many of his stage hits, this was later adapted into a film.