Thursday, November 22, 2012

Show Kids

TCM showed the short Show Kids this morning after Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It's received a DVD release on one of the DVDs in TCM's box set of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire musicals, and is definitely worth a mention.

This being a short, there's not much plot. Dad runs a vaudeville-style theater, but now that it's the 1930s nobody really wants to see vaudeville acts any more, so attendance has fallen to the point that there is no point in keeping the theater open. Son, however, thinks he's good a good idea on how to keep the theater going, which is to book a bunch of child acts. The families of all the children will want to see it, which means big attendance. (In reality, anybody who's been to a high school band concert knows that this will only work for a one-night stand. But this is a short, so we don't need to deal with reality.)

The rest of the short is obviously the child acts, which is where it gets relatively interesting. The movie was shot in three-strip Technicolor roughly at the end of 1934 (TCM's database lists it as a 1934 release, while IMDb lists it as a January 1935 release), which means it was made before Becky Sharp. The color is surprisingly good, for the most part, which is more than can be said about the child acts. There are some dance numbers that aren't bad, and you can see where the young dancers have potential. And then there are some acts that are downright creepy by 202 standards, mostly because they're dressed up and made up like adults. One is a bunch of young girls in grass skirts, with another being a prepubescent boy and girl doing a number with a lot of lifts. Those two look like they have talent -- at least, it certainly takes a good deal of talent to do those lifts. But they're dressed up like modern dancers, which means that the young boy is wearing next to nothing. I'm sure it was perfectly innocent back in the day, but now it doesn't seem quite so. And don't get me started on the songs, which are either more creepy or done by people who simply can't sing.

Show Kids is by turns bizarre and fascinating. Thankfully it's on DVD, but if you don't want to buy the box set, somebody exceprted the talent show portion of it and posted it to Youtube.

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