04 November 2006

Neither Here Nor There, But...

Opinions of the Warner Bros. 1929 musical revue THE SHOW OF SHOWS typically teeter between those who admire and enjoy the production, and those who are nearly moved to violence by it's mere mention.

While unlikely to change any one's allegiance, it's worth mentioning in these pages that the commonly seen print, while largely complete (save for overture, intermission and exit music) and intact (until Technicolor material surfaces for portions now seen only in monochrome), is missing a bit of footage that even the most devoted viewers --- and surely there's a few out there --- may be unaware of.

The fourth reel of this fifteen reel film, features former boxer and Light Heavyweight Champion, Georges Carpentier, in a musical production number titled "If I Could Learn To Love (As Well As I Fight)." In most if not all surviving prints, the reel begins with the musical number itself.

Originally, the entire sequence was introduced by the film's Master of Ceremonies, Frank Fay. What follows is a transcript of this missing sequence, as captured at a screening of the original print in 1929.

(Introductory Music)

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is really a pleasure and a delight to announce the next star. This artist is a great fighter and the most colorful of all fighters, both in the ring and the field of honor. Mr. Georges Carpentier.

Carpentier, during this performance will fight six rounds. This will not be an ordinary exhibition and he will be seconded by two very famous ladies of the screen, Miss Patsy Ruth Miller and Miss Alice White.

I would like to say, ladies and gentlemen, that it is not a... (here, Carpentier apparently begins to tap Fay with one or both of his formidable hands)... please... this is... ah, don't! This is not an ordinary.... You're hurting me! This is not an ordinary fight. You're too powerful. It will be a fight to the finish and the man that Mr. Carpentier is fighting is a pretty tough guy himself. I mean, he can take care of himself. (Fay weakly laughs.)

And you will... (pause, as Fay gathers himself.) Those who are at all shy of blood in the audience, I will ask you to leave the theatre, because this will be the fight of the year and Mr. Carpentier will positively appear and will fight... (hastily starts to exit)... but not with Fay."

And here, the missing sequence ends, and the film resumes as we've come to know it... for better or worse.

Note: An excellent and continually evolving page exists for "The Show of Shows" on the Wikipedia site.



Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great story! I found it doing a search of "Max Shagrin", who was my fraternal grandfather's twin brother. Max was the smart one, coming west with the Warner boys, childhood friends in Youngstown, Ohio, before they decided to make movies to get around the controlled film distribution system. I've renewed the Warner-Shagrin family connection with Cass Warner, who is Harry Warner's granddaughter. She and I met in New Castle, PA, home of the very first Warner Theater, a few years ago during a film festival named for her grandfather.

Anonymous said...

I remember a screening of "Show of Shows" back in 1984(in Boston)where Carpentier's appearance was greeted with confusion."Who's that?" someone asked, "Maurice Chevalier"?.

Jeff Cohen said...

To be perfectly fair, it's the odd fish indeed who goes about knowing who all these forgotten names and faces are! My first viewing of SHOW OF SHOWS, at some point in the mid-1970's, was akin to visiting a totally alien world --- populated by interesting but utterly unfathomable souls. In retrospect, the fact that your audience even knew who Chevalier was indicates they were a good deal more on the ball than I was initially --- bless 'em.