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Characters of the 1920s ‘Jazz Age’ Such as Babe Ruth and Clara Bow

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Paul Samuel Whiteman (March 28, 1890 – December 29, 1967) was an American bandleader and orchestral director. Leader of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s, Whiteman produced recordings that were immensely successful, and press notices often referred to him as the “King of Jazz”. Using a large ensemble and exploring many styles of music, Whiteman is perhaps best known for his blending of symphonic music and jazz, as typified by his 1924 commissioning and debut of George Gershwin’s jazz-influenced “Rhapsody In Blue”. Whiteman recorded many jazz and pop standards during his career, including “Wang Wang Blues”, “Mississippi Mud”, “Rhapsody in Blue”, “Wonderful One”, “Hot Lips”, “Mississippi Suite”, and “Grand Canyon Suite”.

His popularity faded in the swing music era of the 1930s, and by the 1940s Whiteman was semi-retired from music. Whiteman’s place in the history of early jazz is somewhat controversial.[1] Detractors suggest that Whiteman’s ornately-orchestrated music was jazz in name only (lacking the genre’s improvisational and emotional depth), and co-opted the innovations of black musicians.[1] Defenders note that Whiteman’s fondness for jazz was genuine (he worked with black musicians as much as was feasible during an era of racial segregation),[1] that his bands included many of the era’s most esteemed white jazz musicians, and argue that Whiteman’s groups handled jazz admirably as part of a larger repertoire.[2] In his autobiography, Duke Ellington[3] declared, “Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity.

Clara Bow doesn’t look like a relic. She doesn’t look like she belongs in the ‘20s, or even in black and white. She looks nothing like the other stars of the silent era, who either seemed frozen in puberty (Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish), outrageously “exotic” (Theda Bara, Pola Negri), or untouchably glamorous (Gloria Swanson). This girl’s got something like whoa.

Look at her. She looks so … MODERN. Like she could be a star today, right? When I show footage of Bow to my undergraduates, who generally consider the viewing of silent film as the sixth level of hell (trumped only by the viewing of Soviet silent film) they can’t take their eyes off her. It’s her movement, her eyes, the way she flirts with the camera.

But it’s something else, too — something Billy Wilder once referred to as “flesh impact,” a rare quality shared only with the likes of Jean Harlow, Rita Hayworth, and Marilyn Monroe. Flesh impact meant having “flesh which photographs like flesh,” flesh you felt you could reach out and touch.

In other words: flesh with which you would very much like to have sex. That desire made Clara Bow a star, but would also make it easy to tell outrageous stories about her, and for people to believe those outrageous stories. In 1927, she was the No. 1 star in America. When she retired in 1931 amid a tangle of scandals, she was all of 28 years old.

Like so many stars from the silent era, Bow started from nothing. After living a childhood sort of like Francie’s in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, she won a “starmaking” contest in a fan magazine in the early ‘20s. But American Idol this was not: Winning meant a feature in the magazine, a walk-on role, and little more. (Bow’s walk-on role was later cut, but she didn’t find out until she was in the theater watching with friends — for a teenage girl, this ranks up there with the dreaded getting-your-period-while-wearing-white-pants.)

But Bow had a tenacious (and total creep-fest) father who encouraged her to keep pestering for roles. Small roles snowballed into bigger ones, and she eventually found herself under contract to Paramount, which refined her image as the quintessential woman of the era: the flapper The first serious scandal broke in 1930, when Bow’s secretary and confidant Daisy DeVoe absconded with a large pile of Bow’s personal records following an argument over the handling of the star’s finances and future. (DeVoe had originally served as Bow’s hairdresser at Paramount — Devoe was to Bow as Ken Paves is to Jessica Simpson, only less prom hair.)

DeVoe attempted to blackmail Bow, but Bow called the police and took her to court. This was a spectacularly poor PR move, as a trial ensured that the specific stains on Bow’s dirty laundry would be made public knowledge. DeVoe also put on a dramatic show on the witness stand, insinuating Bow’s constant drunkenness, her hook-ups, and the number love letters she had destroyed at Bow’s behest (which, apart from the love letters, actually just sounds like freshman year in college, but bygones). DeVoe went to jail, but the damage was done. Ory started playing music with home-made instruments in his childhood, and by his teens was leading a well-regarded band in Southeast Louisiana. He kept La Place, Louisiana, as his base of operations due to family obligations until his twenty-first birthday, when he moved his band to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was one of the most influential trombonists of early jazz. Ory was a banjo player during his youth and it is said that his ability to play the banjo helped him develop “tailgate,” a particular style of playing the trombone. In “tailgate” style the trombone plays a rhythmic line underneath the trumpets and cornets.

House on Jackson Avenue, New Orleans, was Ory’s residence in the 1910s The house on Jackson Avenue in the picture to the right is where Buddy Bolden discovered Ory, playing his first New trombone, instead of the old civil war trombone. Unfortunately his sister said he was too young to play with Bolden. He had one of the best-known bands in New Orleans in the 1910s, hiring many of the great jazz musicians of the city, including, cornetists Joe “King” Oliver, Mutt Carey, and Louis Armstrong; and clarinetists Johnny Dodds and Jimmie Noone. In 1919 he moved to Los Angeles [1]—one of a number of New Orleans musicians to do so near that time—and he recorded there in 1921 with a band that included Mutt Carey, clarinetist and pianist Dink Johnson, and string bassist Ed Garland. Garland and Carey were longtime associates who would still be playing with Ory during his 1940s comeback. While in Los Angeles Ory and his band recorded two songs, “Ory’s Creole Trombone” and “Society Blues.” They were the first jazz recordings made on the west coast by an African-American jazz band from New Orleans. His band recorded with the recording company Nordskog and Ory paid them for the pressings and then sold them under his own label of “Kid Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra” at a store in Los Angeles called Spikes Brothers Music Store.

In 1925, Ory moved to Chicago, where he was very active, working and recording with Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Joe “King” Oliver, Johnny Dodds, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and many others. He mentored Benny Goodman, and later Charles Mingus. During the Great Depression Ory retired from music and would not play again until 1943. From 1944 to about 1961 he led one of the top New Orleans style bands of the period. In addition to Mutt Carey and Ed Garland, trumpeters Alvin Alcorn and Teddy Buckner; clarinetists Darnell Howard, Jimmie Noone, Albert Nicholas, Barney Bigard, and George Probert; pianists Buster Wilson, Cedric Haywood, and Don Ewell; and drummer Minor Hall were among his sidemen during this period. All but Probert, Buckner, and Ewell were originally from New Orleans. The Ory band was an important force in reviving interest in New Orleans jazz, making popular 1941-1942 radio broadcasts—among them a number of slots on the Orson Welles Almanac broadcast and a jazz history series sponsored by Standard Oil—as well as by making recordings.

Ory retired from music in 1966 and spent his last years in Hawaii, with the devoted assistance of Trummy Young. He died in Honolulu Theda Bara ( /ˈθiːdə ˈbærə/[1] thee-də bar-ə; July 29, 1885 – April 7, 1955), born Theodosia Burr Goodman, was an American silent film actress – one of the most popular of her era, and one of cinema’s earliest sex symbols. Her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname “The Vamp” (short for vampire). Theodosia Burr Goodman was born in the Avondale section of Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father was Bernard Goodman (1853–1936),[2] a prosperous Jewish tailor born in Poland.

Her mother, Pauline Louise de Coppett (1861–1957), was born in Switzerland. Bernard and Pauline married in 1882. Theda’s siblings were a boy, Marque (1888–1954)[3] and a girl, Esther (1897–1965),[2] who also became a film actress as Lori Bara and married Francis W. Getty of London in 1920. The origin of Bara’s stage name is disputed; The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats says it came from director Frank Powell, who learned Theda had a relative named Barranger. In promoting the 1917 film “Cleopatra”, Fox Studio publicists noted that the name was an anagram of “Arab death”, and her press agents claimed inaccurately that she was “the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman, born in the Sahara.”[4][5] In 1917 the Goodman family legally changed its surname to “Bara”

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