Happy 128th Birthday, Maurice Chevalier!

Actor, singer and rake Maurice Chevalier was born 128 years ago today in Paris, France. Here are 10 MC Did-You-Knows:

  • Chevalier began his show biz career at age 13, singing in a local cafe.
  • At 27, Chevalier was involved briefly with an performer named Fréhel, among France’s biggest stars of the day. She helped him get his first major role, in a show in Marseille called l’Alcazar, for which his critical notices were very positive.
  • Chevalier once served as sparring partner to former light heavyweight champion of the world, boxer Georges Carpentier.
  • Chevalier spent two years as a prisoner of war in Germany during World War I.
  • Chevalier moved to London in 1917 and found success there at the Palace Theatre; he went on to make his Broadway debut in 1922 in the operetta Dédé.
  • When talkies arrived, Chevalier headed for Hollywood, debuting in Innocents of Paris in 1929.
  • By 1930, Chevalier had earned the only two Oscar nominations of her career, both in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category, for The Love Parade (1930), directed by Ernst Lubitsch, and The Big Pond (1930).
  • In 1959, Chevalier was awarded a special Oscar for his half-century of contributions to the world of entertainment.
  • Chevalier is said to have been very tight-fisted. When he was on contract with Paramount Pictures, he balked at the ten cents a day he was expected to pay for parking in the studio lot; he was able to negotiate a rate of a nickel a day instead.
  • Chevalier’s accent in pictures was reportedly something of a put-on. He actually became quite fluent in English and spoke with only a slight accent. But he knew which side his croissant was buttered on.

Happy birthday, Maurice Chevalier, wherever you may be!

Maurice Chevalier

Happy 101st Birthday, Toby Wing!

Actress Toby Wing was born Martha Virginia Wing in Amelia Court House, Virginia, 101 years ago today. She was never a star, but she’s remembered fondly by old-movie buffs for her many memorable small parts and cameos. Here are 10 TW Did-You-Knows:

  • She took her screen name Toby after the nickname her father had given a horse.
  • After serving in World War I, Wing’s father moved to Hollywood to serve an assistant director and mid-level executive at Paramount Studios. He also served in World War II and was for a time was a prisoner of the Japanese in the Philippines; he survived the infamous Bataan Death March.
  • Her sister Madison was also a film actress, under the name Pat Wing. Madison appeared in 32 pictures between 1923 and 1937, though she generally went uncredited.
  • As a child, Wing took a few small parts in silent pictures before refocusing on her studies at her parents’ insistence.
  • She was romantically paired with an impressive roster of prominent men—Maurice Chevalier, Alfred Vanderbilt, Franklin Roosevelt Jr., Jackie Coogan (Wing and Coogan were engaged for a time) and Pinky Tomlin among them.
  • Wing’s best-remembered role was in the 1933 Warner Brothers musical 42nd Street, where she was the “Young and Healthy” girl opposite crooner Dick Powell.
  • Wing’s career alternated between sizable roles and cameos (with the latter being prevalent). Mostly, she served (and ably so) as eye candy, though she occasionally scored more prominent roles when she appeared in Poverty Row pictures.
  • After being engaged—but not wed—to a long string of men, Wing married prominent aviator Dick Merrill, who was 22 years her senior. Many were skeptical of the union, but the pair enjoyed wedded bliss until Merrill’s death in 1982.
  • Wing appeared on Broadway in Cole Porter‘s You Never Know, a troubled production that lasted just 73 performances; Wing appeared in the production alongside Clifton Webb, Libby Holman and Lupe Velez.
  • Wing and Merrill settled in Miami Beach, Florida, where she dabbled in real estate and taught Sunday School at All Souls’ Episcopal Church into her 80s.

Happy birthday, Toby Wing, wherever you may be!

Toby Wing

Moonlight Saving Time for Us, Please!

Sheet music for Moonlight Saving TimeWe’re awfully fond of the Harry RichmanIrving Kahal tune, (There Oughta Be a) Moonlight Saving Time, and we invariably think of it on this day every spring.

It was recorded by a wide variety of artists and orchestras when it debuted back in 1931, from Ambrose and His Mayfair Hotel Orchestra to Maurice Chevalier, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, and Jay Wilbur’s Hottentots, but our favorite rendition, in large part because she sings the verses as well as the chorus (unlike most of the other artists who have recorded, back then and in the years since) is by Cladrite Radio sweetheart Annette Hanshaw, who recorded the song in New York City on May 9, 1931, accompanied by Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet, Sammy Prager on piano and Eddie Lang on guitar.

Our gal Annette’s performance of the song manages to be simultaneously playful, sincere and just a little bit saucy, which shouldn’t be surprising. She was a terrific singer, and it’s a catchy and clever song. Enjoy!

(There Oughta Be a) Moonlight Savings Time

Birdies fly with new ambition,
Spring is in their song.
Soon you’ll find yourself a-wishin’
Days were not so long.
If my thought is not defined,
Listen while I speak my mind:

There oughta be a moonlight saving time
So I could love that boy o’ mine
Until the birdies wake and chime ‘Good morning!’

There oughta be a law in clover time
To keep that moon out overtime,
To keep each lover’s lane in rhyme till dawning.

You’d better hurry up, hurry up
Hurry up, get busy today.
You’d better croon a tune, croon a tune
To the man up in the moon,
And here’s what I’d say:

There oughta be a moonlight saving time
So I could love that boy of mine
Until the birdies wake and chime ‘Good morning!’

In January, the nights are very long
But that’s all right.
In happy June comes the honeymoon time;
Days are longer than the nights.

In lovetime season, the moon’s the reason
For every cuddle and kiss.
When days are longer, the nights are shorter.
Something should be done about this.

Oh, there oughta be a moonlight saving time
To make the morning glories climb
An hour later on the vine each morning.

You sorta need a moon to bill and coo,
An old back porch, a birch canoe.
A parlor lamp in June won’t do, I’m warning.

I’ve heard the farmer say, ‘I’ll make hay
While the sun is shining above.’
But when the day is done, night’s begun;
You can ask the farmer’s son, it’s time to make love.

There oughta be a moonlight saving time
So I could love that boy of mine
Until the birdies wake and chime ‘Good morning!’

Words by Irving Kahal; music by Harry Richman—1931