"Eddie Cantor in Person" features outstanding, if misleading
Stephen Crum | Kansas City, Kansas USA | 12/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Do not be mislead like yours truly that this "Eddie Cantor in Person" DVD is a recently unearthed and rarely if ever seen filmed concert. The liner notes really fooled me: "If you remember Eddie Cantor's one man show at Carnegie Hall..well, here it is! Though not specifically filmed there, Eddie did make a recording of that wonderful performance, but added in his friends Jimmy Durante and Eddie Jackson as well."
The fact is this DVD is indeed Cantor in person, per se, in a 45 minute (on the button) main portion of the March 25, 1951 Colgate Comedy Hour as broadcast live on NBC-TV. This was his eighth Colgate show, an edited down version of his nearly two hour Carnegie Hall "My Forty Years in Show Business." Eddie even introduces his performance with a reference to this being his 41st year in show business.
The introduction and concluding Colgate Comedy Hour references have been cut, as well as any NBC-TV identifications. Also missing from the original broadcast is then Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall's filmed promo for the USO.
On stage with Cantor are composers Henry Tobias and Arthur Siegel at twin pianos backing up Cantor as well as Al Goodman (it is assumed) and his Orchestra visible in back of the pianos. A dozen singers and dancers accompany Eddie at various times.
The good news, actually great news, is that this is prime, pure Cantor. He was just beginning in TV at this time, and was in comparatively good health. Over a year later, he would suffer a heart attack and drastically alter his performing. But here he is at his jumping, hand clapping, "Apostle of Pep" best, even though he was now in his late 50's. Just check out the chorus line kicking and prancing he does while belting out "How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm?" He is fantastic!
After introducing the evening with "There's No Business Like Show Business," Cantor goes practically non-stop with songs and stories about the show business of Flo Ziegfeld, W.C. Fields, Gus Edwards, Groucho Marx, Milton Berle, Will Rogers, and Irving Berlin. Interesting that Cantor's story about the ad lib by Will Rogers after a cat happened to wander on stage during his performance in the Follies is the same he attributed on commercial record to Ed Wynn: "Get off the stage, pussy, this is a monologue, not a catalogue."
Eddie also stretches the truth when he claims he alone picked out "If You Knew Susie" (which--oddly--he does not sing in this program). Al Jolson actually introduced it, found it not to his liking, and offered it to Cantor, who then immortalized it.
The program is packed with great period songs: "Harrigan," "My Wife's Gone to the Country," "Waitin' for the Robert E. Lee," "School Days," "Whoopee," "Ballin' the Jack," "Ida," "Josephina, Please Don't Leana on the Bell," "The Darktown Strutter's Ball," "Rufus Rastus Mr. Johnson Brown" (dueting with Eddie Jackson), "Ma, He's Makin' Eyes at Me," "Charley My Boy," and "Ain't She Sweet."
Speaking of Eddie Jackson, he comes on about half way through the show in a Coney Island outdoor cafe segment with long time partner Jimmy Durante, who wears a wig (he's supposed to be younger, you see). Cantor plays the singing waiter, along with Jackson. Durante takes the piano. Catch the blooper at the end of the bit when you can hear Durante (over the applause) ask Eddie how to get off and Eddie tells him with back turned to camera, "I just got paid, so I think I'll go home!" Then Durante repeats the line to the audience, and departs. Live TV is wonderful.
Cantor ends the set with his story of FDR and the establishment of the March of Dimes, which Cantor did indeed name and co-create along with Roosevelt.
Overall it is a honey of a show, dripping with nostalgia and talent. Audio quality is very good with video less so. Several damaged frames are visible.
As for the bonus footage, a "never before released tribute to Al Jolson," there are several treats. First of all, both Eddie and wife Ida reminisce, supposedly in their den, about the recently deceased Jolson. This tribute was from a Colgate Comedy Hour of Nov. 5, 1950, not long after Jolie's passing. Featured is a lip sync of Jolson's recording of "Swanee" by a blackfaced Roberto Gari, son-in-law of Eddie and Ida (he was married to Janet Cantor). The "perfect impersonation" as called in the liner notes is about half correct. The syncing improves as the song progresses. Probably on the smaller TV screens of 1950 it was less noticeable.
The added plus here is Cantor's heartfelt singing of "My Mammy" with a huge caricature of Jolson in the background. "Variety" aptly reviewed this tribute as one having "reverence and nostalgia without becoming maudlin."
So is this DVD worth owning? Definitely.
Is a 45 minute, trimmed down Colgate Comedy Hour worth $20+? Probably not, but how else can you obtain this gem? And since this IS a gem to the Cantor collector, it is worth it after all.
But...WHY don't the DVD's liner notes mention the Colgate info, actual airing date, running time, and complete song listing? This was recently (late 2005) produced by Brian Gari, Cantor's grandson, so surely he knows the unlisted facts. Maybe there is a potential copyright problem in regard to Colgate and/or NBC? It sure points that way. It would be great to have the entire program.
Regardless, Eddie Cantor's performance, essentially a one-man show, is absolutely superb."
A great performance
David Ackerman | New York, NY | 10/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you remember Eddie Cantor's one man show at Carnegie Hall...well, here it is! Though not specifically filmed there, Eddie did make a recording of that wonderful performance, but added in his friends Jimmy Durante and Eddie Jackson as well! If you have the double CD, then this is the companion video. With his two accomplished piano players, composers Henry Tobias and Arthur Siegel, our Apostle of Pep sings some of his biggest hits, including"Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider)," "How Ya Gonna Keep `Em (Down On the Farm)," "Ain't She Sweet,""Ballin' the Jack" and more! He reminisces about his days at Surprise Lake Camp and sings George M. Cohan's "Harrigan." He tells stories about his friends Groucho Marx, Will Rogers, and Florenz Ziegfeld. He salutes his boss from his Kid Kabaret days, Gus Edwards. When he speaks of his days as a singing waiter in Coney Island, he introduces his old piano playin' buddy, Jimmy Durante.
As a bonus, they have included a never before released tribute to Al Jolson, where Eddie and his wife Ida remember Jolie and present Cantor's son-in-law, Roberto Gari doing such a perfect impersonation of Jolson that some people thought it was Jolson himself on film!"
A glimpse of the real Cantor
Vincent T. Lynch | Colorado Springs, Colorado | 12/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen a few rare videos of Eddie Cantor's old television series, but this is more like the famous Cantor from the stage. The picture quality is reasonable considering the age of the masters and the sound quality is really quite good. This is highly recommended as a truly rare gem of Broadway and television history. I only wish it had been longer!"