Specific dates are a little hard to come by but, one-hundred, twenty-five years ago in May, Edison Studios produced three silent actuality films of German bodybuilder Eugen Sandow (born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller). It was directed by Scottish mutoscope inventor, photographer and Edison employee William K. L. Dickson.
Florenz Ziegfeld wanted to display Sandow at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Ziegfeld found that the audience was more fascinated by Sandow’s bulging muscles than by the amount of weight he was lifting so, Ziegfeld had Sandow move in poses which he dubbed “muscle display performances”…and the legendary strongman added these displays in addition to performing his feats of strength with barbells. He added chain-around-the-chest breaking and other colorful displays to Sandow’s routine and Sandow quickly became Ziegfeld’s first star. The [Edison] film was of only part of his act and featured him flexing his muscles rather than performing any feats of physical strength.
From Film Threat:
Did you ever stop and say to yourself: “Hey, who was the very first movie star?” You never did? That’s funny, because I did. In researching the answer, I found myself going all the way back to the dawn of motion pictures, where a scantily clad muscleman flexing his biceps was the unlikely pioneer in the realm of celluloid stardom. The year was 1894 and the American motion picture industry consisted solely of Thomas Edison and his team of inventors. Edison had the technology in place but, he was missing one key element: the film contents. […] there was one man who had no problem filling that void. In between the expected presentations for feats of strength, there were posing sequences where Sandow arched and twisted his body in a manner that detailed the excesses of his musculature. Today, we call that bodybuilding, and no one thinks twice about it but, in the 1890s, it was a startling and exciting physical display. Reportedly, Sandow made a nice side business by accepting money from women who wanted to feel his mighty muscles! Sandow’s fame in the United States grew fairly quickly and he became a major headliner on the vaudeville circuit. Edison realized he could also cash in on Sandow’s fame and, in early 1894, he sent word to Ziegfeld about having Sandow appear in a kinetoscope film. Edison then handed Sandow over to William K.L. Dickson, who was in charge of the film production at Edison’s studio. Sandow stripped off his clothing, donned his tighty-whitey posing trunks and stood before the hand-cranked kinetoscope camera. And, to employ the ultimate cliché, history was made.
Sixty-five years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was Oh! My Pa-Pa (O Mein Papa) performed by Eddie Fisher. A lamentation, sung by a young woman grieving the loss of her clown-father, the song was written by Swiss composer Paul Burkhard in 1939 for the musical Der schwarze Hecht (The Black Pike). Reproduced and re-issued in 1950 as Das Feuerwerk (The Firework), the musical was made into a German film, Fireworks, in 1954 starring Lilli Palmer.
Trumpeter Eddie Calvert had a #1 with an instrumental version of the song in the UK at the very same time Fisher’s version was the #1 in the US.
On March 8, 1967, television audiences were treated to a version of the song by Jim Nabors, in character as Gomer Pyle, in the Season 3 episode (#85) “Sing a Song of Papa”. On October 24, 1991, Krusty the Clown sang the song as O mein Papa on The Simpsons in the Season 3 episode Like Father, Like Clown, a twist on the young woman’s sorrow over her father.
This song has been covered by many other artists, including The Everly Brothers, Connie Francis, Ray Anthony (last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra), The Bobbettes, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Björk (as “Pabbi minn”).
November 9 has three celebrations. National Louisiana Day highlights the 18th state. Purchased as a territory in 1803 during the Jefferson Presidency and admitted to the Union on April 30, 1812, its largest city is New Orleans and its capital is Baton Rouge. Those native to the state are referred to as ‘Louisianians‘ but, having had a great neighbor in Texas that was from this state, he, frequently, referred to himself as a certain Cajun ethnicity. The official nickname is the Pelican State but, other nicknames are Bayou State, Creole State, Sportsman’s Paradise and The Boot.
With a blending of cultures, this multilingual state has Native American (seven distinct tribes), French (Acadians), Spanish, African, German, Irish and Haitian influences. This unique mixture has brought forth grand cuisine, excellent music, Creole culture and Mardi Gras.
Louisiana is home to the National World War II Museum, the Historic Voodoo Museum, the Mardi Gras Museum, the New Orléans Jazz Museum, the Delta Music Museum, the Old State Capitol and the Tabasco Museum. It is also home to the earliest North American mound complex: Watson Brake, the U. S. National Monument & UNESCO World Heritage Site: Poverty Point and, the Troyville Earthworks.
Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe [Jelly Roll Morton] – Musician (October 20, 1890 – July 10, 1941)
Louis Daniel “Louie” Armstrong [Satchmo] – Musician (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971)
Truman Garcia Capote – Author (September 30, 1924 – August 25, 1984)
Antoine “Fats” Domino, Jr. – Musician/Singer/Songwriter (February 26, 1928 – October 24, 2017)
Howard Allen Frances O’Brien [Anne Rice] – Author (October 4, 1941)
Cheers and enjoy!