Sunday, July 11, 2010

Worth 1,000 Words: JOLSON, RATOFF & DARNELL at Fox


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On the set of 1939's HOTEL FOR WOMEN (20th Century Fox), featuring 16 year-old LINDA DARNELL in her first starring role, a sharply suited AL JOLSON visits both Darnell and her director, GREGORY RATOFF. Jolson had recently finished his own Fox film, ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE, in which he starred with Alice Faye and Tyrone Power. Both Rose and Hotel were directed by Ratoff. That chain leading to Ratoff's right pocket might be connected to the infamous whistle he often blew for effect while directing. [from Steve Crum's showbiz memorabilia collection]
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This was not the last time Linda Darnell (Oct. 16, 1923-April 10, 1965) worked with producer, director and actor Gregory Ratoff (April 20, 1897-Dec. 14, 1960).
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Ratoff was both director and scenario writer of 1939's Rose of Washington Square. He was known for his eccentricity. During a scene in which Hobart Cavanaugh played a drunk in the balcony who heckled Jolson's Ted Cotter on stage, Ratoff directed the entire sequence with his back turned. Ratoff explained why in his heavily Lithuanian accent: "That man Cavanaugh, he ees so funny, he makes me cry if I look at him." Ratoff was not called "Gregory the Great" for nothing.
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Click on this link for one fantastic performance by NIGEL DREINER as he sings three Al Jolson songs live at the 2010 Jolson Convention in Milwaukee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU6imtu3D30

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