Friday, April 06, 2012

Ruby Keeler by Jon Breen

Hi, Ed. It's a long time since I offered you anything for your blog, but when I saw your recent comment about not getting Ruby Keeler, I thought you might be interested in the following.
Ruby Keeler, star of several Warner Brothers musicals in the early 1930s, is a unique figure in movie history. The general consensus is that she was not a good actress, not a good singer, and when all is said and done, a somewhat clunky and graceless dancer. Obviously being married to Al Jolson didn't do her any harm professionally. But there are some things to be said in her favor. Based on interviews with her late in life, she obviously did not take herself too seriously, was very well aware of her limitations as a performer, was quick to point out all the things Ann Miller, Eleanor Powell, and others could do that she could not, and seemed to agree that there is no greater disappointment in the annals of cinema than the moment in FOOTLIGHT PARADE that the exotic Shanghai Lil, after elaborate Busby Berkeley-designed buildup, turns out to be Ruby Keeler. In recognizing her own limitations, she has something in common with other lucky show business personalities who landed in the right place at the right time. Victor Mature and Ringo Starr come to mind.
But watching FORTY-SECOND STREET for the first time in several years, I noticed something else. There is a scene where she goes to George Brent's apartment and has considerable apprehension about the purity of his intentions. Over several minutes, without speech, several conflicting emotions are played out on her surprisingly expressive face. For the first time I realized that Ruby Keeler could have been really good in silent pictures.
That's it, for what it's worth. Be well, Ed, and keep up the great work on all fronts.


Peter L. Winkler said...

I like Victor Mature. So there.

Mike Dennis said...

I would also add the Beatles were going nowhere until they hired Ringo Starr. The minute his solid drumming entered the band, they shot into the stratosphere. He was the missing piece they needed.