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They Learned About Women

They Learned About Women(1930)

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They Learned About Women (1930)

Vaudeville and baseball come together in this early musical that served as the basis for the later Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra hit Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949). This time the vaudevillian baseball players are Gus Van and Joseph T. Schenck, a vaudeville team making their only feature together (Schenck died a few months after the picture's release). Both are in love with pretty blonde Bessie Love, who seems to favor Schenck, until a vamp breaks up the romance and the act. Van and Schenck's numbers actually come from their vaudeville act and contain some pretty shocking, by contemporary standards, ethnic humor. That's balanced by Love's sweet delivery of "A Man of My Own." But the real highlight of the film is a trip to a Harlem theatre for the film's one big production number, "Harlem Madness." The principal soloist is Nina Mae McKinney, the star of King Vidor's Hallelujah (1929) who was often dubbed "The Black Garbo," with an off-stage assist from Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards and an almost irresistible child dancer. The sequence was originally shot in two-strip Technicolor, but that version appears to be lost, though the loss of color does little to diminish the number's effect.

By Frank Miller

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