Thursday, March 02, 2006

More from that Leslie Henson fellow...


click on thumbnails for full-sized images

Geoff Collins has been kind (and obsessive) enough to send along these assorted examples of vintage Hensonalia. The two Play Pictorial covers are particularly nice and of specific interest to fans of classic American comedy. Henson played the title role in the London production of Eddie Cantor's most successful musical comedy Kid Boots (2/2/26), and some clips from the production are available on the Pathe site. Henson is also shown opposite American comedienne Zelma O'Neal in Nice Goings On (9/13/33). O'Neal, a Broadway fixture in the late 20s, appears in Peach O'Reno (1931) with Wheeler and Woolsey and she's really, really not very good, another stage performer whose special appeal apparently doesn't come across on celluloid. As Dorothy Lee once said, "She had a million dollar personality but she photographed like twenty-five cents." Also included for your edification and bemusement is a 1929 review of Follow Through from Punch, starring Henson and, providing yet another link to Wheeler and Woolsey, Ada May, who played Dorothy Lee's role in the original 1927 production of Rio Rita (you can see her as Martha Raye's maid in Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux (1947)).

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5 Comments:

Anonymous John Owen said...

And to bring the wheel full circle, Ada May, in Follow Through, has the role played by Zelma O'Neal in the Broadway and film versions. The movie version was in two-strip technicolor and I saw it years ago on a bill with some other early color talkies. Jack Haley had the Leslie Henson role and wasn't particularly funny, but he and Zelma performed the one enduring tune from the show, "Button Up Your Overcoat", with a lot of charm.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

Now that's just plain bizarre. Is O'Neal at least better in Follow Thru than she is in Peach O'Reno?

I'm a Haley fan and I find it unfortunate that the most commonly available of his films, aside from Oz, is the awesomely bad One Body Too Many. I'm sure it has its adherents, but it's hardly a showcase for Haley's talents.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous John Owen said...

I'll put some more words around my review above. I haven't seen Peach O'Reno, but I found Zelma to be more than adequate in Follow Thru. Since the leads, Nancy Carroll and Buddy Rogers, have practically nothing interesting to do, it's really up to Zelma and Jack to carry the film. Unfortunately, Jack's one bit of recurring business, the eyebrow twitch that overcomes him in the presence of women, has NOT been rethought for the film camera. He's yanking his head around to get that twitch out to the back row of the theatre, and this overscaled mugging really ruins his whole performance. Zelma, though, is really rather darling. She has a very cute number called "I wanna be BAD!" that has her positively squirming with pre-code naughty intent. Might cause you to modify your opinion, and worth a look.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

Hmm.. I need to track that down. Zelma plays her role in Peach O' Reno as though she were suffering from severe brain damage. She's a kind of charmless, cut-rate ZaSu Pitts. I'm glad to hear that wasn't anything approaching a typical performance from O'Neil.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Brian Paige said...

I never had any problem with O'Neal in Peach-O-Reno. It's got to be one of W & W's best movies.

That said, after seeing Follow Thru she just didn't photograph well at all in early two color Technicolor, so maybe Dorothy Lee was onto something.

9:07 PM  

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