Sunday, August 15, 2010


Today, classic comic actor Jim Dale who was the delightful villain in Walt Disney's "Pete's Dragon" turns seventy-five. Jim is a wonderful character actor who also played a part in the Sherman Brother musical "Busker Alley". More importantly, Jim was also the star of the Cy Coleman, Michael Stewart Broadway musical "Barnum"-- the musical bio pic of the life of carnival showman and con man PT Barnum. Barnum's most famous expression was of course "Never Give A Sucker An Even Break. Marilyn Miller was one of the most popular Broadway musical stars of the 1920s and early 1930s. She was an accomplished tap dancer, singer and actress, but it was the combination of these talents that endeared her to audiences. On stage she usually played rags-to-riches Cinderella characters who lived happily ever after. By contrast her personal life was marked by tragedy and illness, ending in her death at age 37. Dear Marilyn was born Mary Ellen Reynolds in Evansville, Indiana, the youngest daughter of Edwin D. Reynolds, a telephone lineman, and his first wife, the former Ada Lynn Thompson. The tiny, delicate-featured blond beauty was only four years old when, as "Mademoiselle Sugarlump," she debuted at Lakeside Park in Dayton, Ohio as a member of her family's vaudeville act, the Columbian Trio, which then included Marilyn's step-father, Oscar Caro Miller, and two older sisters, Ruth and Claire. They were re-christened the Five Columbians after Marilyn and her mother joined the routine. From their home base in Findlay, Ohio, they toured the Midwest and Europe in variety for ten years, skirting the child labor authorities, before Lee Shubert discovered Marilyn at the Lotus Club in London in 1914.
Miller appeared for the Shuberts in the 1914 and 1915 editions of The Passing Show, a Broadway revue at the Winter Garden Theatre, as well as in The Show of Wonders (1916) and Fancy Free (1918). But it was Florenz Ziegfeld who made her a star after she performed in his Ziegfeld Follies of 1918, at the famed New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street with music by Irving Berlin. Sharing billing with Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers and W.C. Fields, she brought the house down with her impersonation of Ziegfeld's wife, Billie Burke, in a number entitled Mine Was a Marriage of Convenience. Tomorrow is our big day trying to convince the sharp pencil boys that John Nugent and I can make a theatre company fly. Our meeting is at 10:30 am. Think well of us and say a prayer. We've prepared all the charts that sharp pencil people love to see. So off to church today for some time with God-- He can make this so wonderful