Thursday, January 16, 2014

Baby Galoshes

When I was growing up, I loved old musicals particularly ones featuring singing and dancing children like Shirley Temple. One of my favorite Shirley Temple movies is "Bright Eyes", the story of an orphaned girl embroiled in a custody battle between her godfather and the head of the family her mother worked for before being killed in a car accident. Shortly after first seeing this movie, I made up a character called Baby Galoshes who was another child star in the early days of film whose trademark was a pair of red galoshes she would wear in most of her movies. Since then I've kept the character in the back of my mind and have attempted several times to flesh out a story based on her, each with varying results.

When I finally decided to sit down and get an outline going for "Baby Galoshes", I tried to pull a decent amount from movies from around that time and even mid-century ones. Originally I planned to do something similar to "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and have the mother and daughter basically at each other's throats, trying to destroy each other's careers until ultimately no one wanted them but then I decided to ease up on the hatred and backstabbing and just focus on the ebb and flow of a career in Hollywood. Each character would hit a low point in their career and hit a high point but then I tweaked it ever so slightly to have the daughter's, Natalie's, career peter out well before her mother's, Vivian's.

As for the movies, I originally planned to come up with a "script" for each year presented but I couldn't do that so quit about halfway through. What did get written was a portion of a script called "And a Wife Makes Three", "A Kid In the Ointment", "Play in Peoria" and a portion of chapter 16 of "The Secret Garden." "The Secret Garden" is the only adaptation in the story. The other movies and shows mentioned were supposed to have script scenes but it would've meant writing more than just the story I wanted to tell so I either quit mentioning the films or detailed the shows. The one movie I'm glad I didn't get scripted was the western "Tumbleweeds" because I'm actually thinking of turning that into a story but we'll see if that actually happens. "Tumbleweeds" was supposed to comment on why westerns, especially in that time, were geared toward kids or strictly family fare. Serious westerns were few and far between at that time and didn't start becoming more serious until John Wayne came about and even then they were pretty tame. The other movies were generic claptrap that was being produced at the time. "And a Wife Makes Three" detailed the story of a widower, no divorces allowed back then, with a kid who falls in love again. "A Kid In the Ointment" about a working, widowed mom with a kid who falls in love again. And "Play In the Peoria" about a family act who fall in love with the people of a town they were just passing through. All safe, family-friendly fun but back then movies like this did perfectly fine entertaining the masses and it's a shame that, aside from animated movies, you need to have violence, sex or swearing to produce a hit.

The cast of I Love Lucy. From left: Vivian Vance, William Frawley,
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.
As for the names of the characters, I originally wanted to find names of actual producers and movie studio executives and agents to throw around but decided that would be a lot of work to find the names and match them up with their time at a real studio so instead I created my own studio and just chose names that were similar to real people working in Hollywood at the time. The only real names I give are Harold Lloyd and NBC and both are just in passing and I had to do a lot of research on Harold Lloyd in order to make sure how I was going to use him was plausible. As for Vivian and Natalie Parrish, Vivian is named for Vivian Vance who played Ethel Mertz on "I Love Lucy." I've always been a fan of Vance and always considered her an unsung hero of "I Love Lucy." Natalie was not named for anyone in particular, I just thought it was a classy name that would've been used in the 1920s for a little girl. The last name Parrish was at first going to be Edgerton but I changed this to honor Helen Parrish, an early television star who hosted the series "Hour Glass" on NBC in 1947 and succumbed to cancer in 1959 at the age of 34. I first heard of Ms. Parrish in my bible and always wondered what happened to her. Did she move to movies, did she quit acting, what? It wasn't until I got the internet that I could look it up and learned that she had died at an early age. I had originally planned for Natalie to be named Helen which was quickly abandoned. Carrie Hall is clearly an homage to comedienne Lucille Ball.
Helen Parrish

Getting the script format down wasn't the hardest part as there are numerous websites out there that post silent movie scripts online since most of them are in the public domain and I already knew how to format a modern movie script since there was a brief period of time where I thought I wanted to be a screenwriter. I still have one of my movie scripts, after it was returned to me after four years, so maybe someday I will get that posted somewhere.

I'm hoping that this story is as realistic as possible as well as enjoyable. I have a lot of respect for this era of movies and find the biographies of stars in that era fascinating. I got interested in it when I read condensed bios of Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle. It's amazing how quickly their careers plummeted when their dark sides were discovered. That doesn't happen as easily these days.

The movie "Bright Eyes" also features the song "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" which is one of my favorite old-timey songs. I still find myself singing or humming it some days. The song is based on famed trapeze artist Jules Leotard (yes, that Leotard) and was written in 1867. The song was the basis for a Popeye theatrical short where Popeye is distraught over Olive Oyl leaving him a trapeze artist. It's a very entertaining short as you can see:

You can read Baby Galoshes here.

Until next time, I remain...
~Brian

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