Jimmy Conlin’s Timeless Comedy

Jimmy Conlin is a face (if not a name) familiar to most movie buffs, thanks to his appearances in more than 150 features and shorts in movie career that spanned three decades.

Conlin, born October 14, 1884, in Camden, New Jersey, is perhaps best remembered today as a key member of Preston Sturges‘ stock company; he can be seen in nine of that director’s pictures, among them classics such as The Lady Eve, The Palm Beach Story and Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.

His scrawny physique and odd countenance made him well-suited to comedy, but it wasn’t just his appearance that got laughs. He and his first wife, Myrtle Glass, toured extensively in vaudeville, honing their comedic chops in a rough-and-tumble song-and-dance act called, appropriately enough, Conlin and Glass.

And what an act it was! The diminutive Conlin definitely got the worst of it from the more imposing Glass (she’s no taller than he is, but you’d swear she was).

The duo appeared in two Vitaphone shorts, Zip! Boom! Bang! (1929), that seems to be a lost film (though Vitaphone shorts are being recovered and restored with some frequency nowadays, so keep your fingers crossed) and Sharps and Flats (1928), which, fortunately, still exists.

I’ve been on hand for several different screenings of “Sharps and Flats” at NYC’s Film Forum during evenings devoted entirely to Vitaphone shorts, and the response has always been overwhelmingly positive. The uproarious comedy stylings of Conlin and Glass don’t seem remotely dated; they get huge laughs from the Film Forum crowds.

Ideally, you’ll one day have the opportunity to see this short in a theatre as part of an appreciative audience, but we’re confident you’ll enjoy it from the privacy of your home or office, too. Enjoy!

P.S. If you enjoyed this Conlin and Glass short, consider supporting The Vitaphone Project, a truly worthy organization devoted to the preservation of these wonderful shorts.

Happy birthday, Rose Marie

Rose MarieMost folks over the age of thirty surely know the actress Rose Marie, who turns 89 years old today.

After all, she starred as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show, one of the most acclaimed sit-coms of all time. She was a regular on the original Hollywood Squares, sitting just atop Paul Lynde in the center top square. And she appeared such later shows as Murphy Brown and Wings.

But did you know she was a hugely popular child star? It’s true. In 1926, at the age of three, she began performing as Baby Rose Marie. She had a brassy singing voice one doesn’t often find in someone so young, and by the age of five she had her own radio show on NBC.

She also worked the vaudeville circuits and made a number of appearances in movies, including a Vitaphone short that was on the bill with the first talking feature, The Jazz Singer. She even appeared at the White House three times, performing for Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

By her teens, she dropped the “Baby” and began the transition to a career as a singer. She made a go of it, continuing to work in nightclubs and acting on radio, in theatre and in pictures, but it was in the 1960s that her career really took off again.

We wish the happiest of birthdays to Ms. Marie, and we invite you to help us celebrate the occasion by watching this video from her days as a child star. This is a scene from 1933’s International House. Rose was 10 years old.