Monday, March 15, 2010

Worth 1,000 Words: AL JOLSON & WILLIE RITCHIE


WHAT A KNOCKOUT PHOTO! Sitting in a 1920's (or earlier) touring car are The World's Greatest Entertainer, AL JOLSON (May 26. 1886-Oct. 23, 1950), alongside The World's Lightweight Boxing Champion, WILLIE RITCHIE (Feb. 13, 1891-March 24, 1975). Someone has written their names in white ink on the photo. The vintage photograph, stamped on the back by the Laval Co. Inc. Commercial Photography of Fresno, CA, is rich in personalities depicted, but weak on any specific information as to the year, location and circumstances under which it was taken. [from Steve Crum's collection]

Ritchie's birth name, Gerhardt Anthony Steffan, was changed to hide the fact from his mother that he had taken up boxing. He began his boxing career in 1907, and eventually became the World's Lightweight Champ (1912-14). He retired from boxing in 1927, the same year Jolson's heralded talkie, The Jazz Singer, premiered. Willie Ritchie was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1962. 
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If anyone has information about the top photo with Jolson (a Where, What, Why or How would be welcome), please enter such in the comment link below.
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For rarely seen footage of Willie Ritchie's July 4, 1913 Lightweight Championship (which he won) vs Joe Rivers, link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfBmJZ401Qg

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