Wednesday, August 11, 2010

putting on the ritz

Prior to the advent of the American movie palaces of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the primary form of entertainment in America was vaudeville which enjoyed its peak of popularity from the 1880’s until the 1930’s. Although some elements of vaudeville (such as blackface performers) have faded into obscurity, the wide variety of acts eventually led to variety shows on television, the most prominent of which was the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960’s.

During the dying days of vaudeville, Irving Berlin (composer of White Christmas, THE most popular song ever recorded) wrote a song titled “Putting on the Ritz”. Although a musical of the same name was released in 1930, the most famous historical version is Fred Astaire’s performance in the movie “Blue Skies” in 1946:

go get 'em, twinkletoes

Even at his best, Michael Jackson simply could not compare to Fred Astaire, who was 60 years old when “Blue Skies” was filmed.

In 1981, a much traveled musician named Taco released an updated version of the song that also managed to bring in elements of the original vaudeville performances:

Although both versions of the song are fascinating to watch (as is the “Young Frankenstein” version of 1974) , the common theme to all of them is that no matter what your circumstances are in life, if you can somehow manage to convey an image of prosperity, you’ll do just fine.

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