Hits of the 1920s: Volume 2: The hits of 1921-1923
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HITS OF THE 1920S
Vol.2 1921-1923 Original Recordings'Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?' That was the question posed by the Ladies HomeJournal in August 1921. Prohibition had resulted in the rise of bootleggers, gangsters andspeakeasies (five thousand in New York alone in 1923). Cabarets were re-emerging asnight clubs. Bathing beauties adopted the one-piece swimsuit. Sheiks, vamps, flappersand bathtub gin - the Roaring Twenties were in full swing ...
1921 The first Miss America pageant washeld in Atlantic City. Radio stations began toblossom; the first major prize-fight covered onthe air was on 2 July, when Jack Dempseydefeated French challenger Georges Carpentier.
Attention was focused on the murder trial ofNicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (manybelieved them innocent, but they were executedin 1927).
On the silver screen, Rudolph Valentinobecame a major star in The Sheik and The FourHorsemen of the Apocalypse; other notablefilms in 1921 included The Cabinet of Dr.
Caligari and Little Lord Fauntleroy. OnBroadway, the hits included Anna Christie,Shuffle Along which introduced I'm Just Wildabout Harry, Blossom Time, Bombo with AlJolson (April Showers and later Toot Toot,Tootsie!), Ziegfeld Follies of 1921 which gaveFanny Brice two of her biggest hits in SecondHand Rose and My Man, and The Perfect Foolwith Ed Wynn. Will Rogers went from themovies to vaudeville, and joked that he was theonly movie actor so far to come out ofHollywood with the same wife.
1921's popular songs included Zez Confrey'spiano novelty Kitten On The Keys (a staple ofevery player-piano as well, and which Confreyrecorded again in 1922) and the devil-may-careAin't We Got Fun, while Mr Valentino'sinfluence combined with the wanderlust of theprevious few years to produce The Sheik ofAraby (from an unsuccessful Eddie Cantorshow) and Palesteena.
1922 More fascination with exotica wasborn with the opening of the tomb of King Tutankhamen.
George Herman 'Babe' Ruth joinedthe New York Yankees and was soon dubbedthe 'Sultan of Swat'. Jimmy Doolittle flew anaeroplane from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego,California in 21 hours 18 minutes, in two hops.
1922's book list included T. S. Eliot's TheWaste Land, Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, and TheBeautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The New York stage welcomed Abie's IrishRose, which established a long-run record (2,532performances), Rain (in which Isham Jones'srecord of Wabash Blues was played nightly onstage, making it a best-seller), Little Nellie Kelly,Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of anAuthor and Karol Čapek's R.U.R., whichintroduced the word 'robot' into the language.
Movies included Nanook of the North, RobinHood with Douglas Fairbanks, The Prisoner ofZenda with Ramon Novarro, and RudolphValentino in Blood and Sand. Off-screen,Hollywood scandals such as the Fatty Arbuckletrial resulted in a self-regulating group led byformer U.S. Postmaster General Will Hays.
Hit songs of 1922 included a couple of PaulWhiteman classics: Hot Lips, featuringtrumpeter Henry Busse who kept the tune as histheme in later years, and the waltz ThreeO'Clock In The Morning. And vaudevillestalwarts Ed Gallagher and Al Shean (the latterwas the Marx Brothers' uncle) recorded theirtwo-sided Mr Gallagher and Mr Shean, full ofcomments on the foibles of the day.
1923 'Day by day, in every way, I'mgetting better and better.' Those words were onmillions of lips as Dr Emile Coue's system of'auto-suggestion' promised a cure for physicaland mental problems. If that didn't work,champagne could be had for $25 a quart, ascould questionable Scotch for $20. And Timemade its debut as a weekly news magazine.
Broadway hits included a rare visit by theMoscow Art Theatre as well as productions ofWhite Cargo, Cyrano de Bergerac, Shaw's SaintJoan, Poppy with W. C. Fields, a new edition ofthe Ziegfeld Follies, and Runnin' Wild, whichintroduced the next dance craze, theCharleston. Lon Chaney was on the screen asThe Hunchback of Notre Dame, Harold Lloyddangled from the minute hand of an enormousclock in Safety Last, and movies were moreoften part of an elaborate presentation includinga theatre organ rising out of the orchestra pit.
Many of the hit records of 1923 werenovelties: Wendell Hall's It Ain't Gonna RainNo Mo', Barney Google (based on the popularcomic strip character), Yes! We Have NoBananas, and the strangest disc of the year: TheOKeh Laughing Record. Originally cut inGermany three years earlier by comic singerLucie Bernardo and orchestra leader Otto Rathke(and not by an anonymous saloon-keeper and hiswife, as has been told elsewhere), the recordingwas issued anonymously in the U.S. on theOKeh label and was a sensation, inspiringsequels and imitations and remaining in printinto the early 1950s. Ziegfeld star Will Rogersmade his only commercial recordings in 1923,and dance music remained popular: as weopened this programme, so we close it withanother hit from Isham Jones and his Orchestra,Swingin' Down the Lane.
On the horizon: symphonic jazz, world flightrecords, and crossword puzzles. Coming up, in1924.David Lennick, 2006