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A Film by Michael Kantor

THE STARS

Choreographers, Directors & Producers

George White

A producer, director, author, dancer, and actor, White’s first taste of show business came in his teens when he formed a burlesque dancing team with Ben (or Benny) Ryan. Later, he had generally modest solo roles in shows such as “The Echo” (1910), “Ziegfeld Follies,” “The Whirl of Society,” “The Pleasure Seekers,” “The Midnight Girl,” and “Miss 1917,” which had music mainly by the young Jerome Kern. In 1919, he produced and directed the first of a series of revues, George White’s “Scandals,” which combined the best of America’s own burgeoning popular music (as opposed to the imported European variety) with fast-moving sketches and glamorous women. The shows were similar to, although perhaps not quite so lavish, as the undisputed leader of the genre, the “Ziegfeld Follies.” The “Scandals” appeared annually until 1926, and that edition, the longest runner of them all with 424 performances, was particularly notable for its score by DeSylva, Brown, and Henderson, which introduced several enduring numbers such as “Lucky Day,” “Black Bottom,” and “Birth of the Blues.”

White auditioning dancers for his revues, the "Scandals."

There was no George White “Scandals” in 1927, but there was a show about the “Scandals” entitled “Manhattan Mary,” which ran for a decent 264 performances. White produced it and also co-wrote the book with Billy K. Wells. It too had songs by DeSylva, Brown, and Henderson, which included “The Five-Step” and “It Won’t Be Long Now,” and starred White himself and the highly popular zany comedian Ed Wynn. The “Scandals” proper resumed in 1928, and there were further editions in 1929 and 1931. In the latter show, the future movie star, Alice Faye, appeared in the chorus, and this time the songs were by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson (DeSylva had gone to work in Hollywood). Ethel Merman introduced the lovely “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” and “Ladies and Gentlemen, That’s Love,” as well as duetting with Rudy Vallee on “My Song.” Vallee also sang “The Thrill Is Gone” (with Everett Marshall) and “This Is the Missus” (with Peggy Moseley). George White’s “Music Hall Varieties” replaced the “Scandals” in 1932, and in the cast was another Hollywood star of the future, tap-dancer supreme Eleanor Powell, and the likeable song-and-dance man (among other things) Harry Richman, who introduced Herman Hupfield’s delightful ballad, “Let’s Put out the Lights and Go to Sleep.”

The “Scandals” appeared annually until 1926.

George White

Born: 1890
Died: October 11, 1968
Key Shows
  • "The Echo"
  • "Flying High"
  • "George White's Scandals"
  • "Manhattan Mary"
  • "Melody"
  • "Runnin' Wild"
Related Artists
  • Ray Bolger
  • George Gershwin
  • Ira Gershwin
  • Jerome Kern
  • Bert Lahr
  • Ethel Merman
  • Florenz Ziegfeld
There were two more stage presentations of George White’s “Scandals” — in 1936 and 1939 — but fashions had changed, and they only ran for just over 100 performances each. George White’s “Scandals” of 1934, 1935, and 1945 were filmed, and the first two launched Alice Faye on her way to a glittering movie career. Over the years, the stage productions and the films showcased some of America’s most talented artists, such as Bert Lahr, Gracie Barrie, Cliff Edwards, Willie and Eugene Howard, Ann Miller, Ray Middleton, Ella Logan, Ann Pennington, Lou Holtz, W. C. Fields, Dolores Costello, Ray Bolger, and Ethel Barrymore. Other songwriters involved included Irving Caesar, George Gershwin (five scores), Jack Yellen, Harold Arlen, Sammy Stept, and Herb Magidson.

Source: Biographical information provided by MUZE. Excerpted from the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC, edited by Colin Larkin. © 2004 MUZE UK Ltd.

Photo credits: Photofest and Culver Pictures