Let’s Go In to a Picture Show 1907-1922

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Let’s Go In to a Picture Show 1907-1922

(Musical Theater Project/Harbinger Records)

September 24, 2018

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

This is an illuminating, well-produced hoot—26 original recordings from 1907-1922 featuring the best vocalists and musicians of the time. Piano work is wonderful, vocal arrangements are lighthearted. Intermittent fuzz is evocative rather than annoying.

Some selections come from the scores for silent films, others were recorded to promote movies, and several are about them. For example:

“Johnny and Mary were just as contrary/As sweethearts go/Johnny loved the ‘dram-er’ /But Mary would stammer, ‘A picture show.’ (“Let’s Go In to a Picture Show”; Junie McCree/Albert Von Tilzer, from an Edison two-minute cylinder).

“Ev’ry night they used to go/And see a Ten-cent ‘Movie’ Show/Where all the lights were turned down low/Oh what heaven! Oh what bliss!/Not a kiss would Johnny miss”  (“At the Ten-Cent Movie Show”; Leo J. Curley/ George Christie). Taking your squeeze to the movies was a date that implied action on and off the screen as “Take your girlie to the movies/If you can’t make love at home” testifies.

How about “They All Do the Charlie Chaplin Walk” (Mills and M. Scott) or a song like “He’s Working in the Movies Now” (Harry Williams/Vincent Bryan/Henry Lodge), which wryly talks about dad’s colorful new job? He’s doing what?!

Movies, sheet music, and recordings followed one another in as quick a succession as possible. We hear “Movie Rag,” “Brooklyn Cakewalk,” (dance arrangements sold songs) “Mickey” (Harry Williams/Neil Moret) is a piano roll from a Mack Sennett-produced Mabel Normand feature), and “Poor Pauline” (from The Perils of Pauline series). “The Sheik (of Araby)” (Harry B.

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Smith/Francis Wheeler/Ted Snyder) is a tongue-in-cheek riff on Rudolph Valentino’s 1921 film The Sheik.

The single familiar number (besides perhaps “The Sheik”) is “At the Moving Picture Ball” (Howard Johnson/Joseph Santly), a precursor to celebrity list songs. Among others, it calls out Theda Bara, Wallace Reid, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Mister Zukor (Adolph Zukor, a producer at Paramount Pictures). Really, you want to get up and move.

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Melodies and lyrics alike are refreshingly uncomplicated.

The recording is great fun. It will leave you with a smile.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.