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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • CARNAVAL EN LA HABANA, 1941

The Little Whopper: 1920

The Little Whopper: 1920

New York circa 1920. "Casino Theater playing the musical 'The Little Whopper.' " 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.

 

Sister Act

My grandmother Rose Wilton and my Great Aunt Mae were in "The Little Whopper" in the roles of Teenty and Tonty. They were quite popular on the Vaudeville stage as the Wilton Sisters. Love these photos!

Miss George Washington

Many thanks for the clarification, as I was unable to find a plot synopsis for the silent movie that inspired the play, and thought mistakenly that the title of "Oh! What a Whopper!" was sufficient evidence. "Miss George Washington" was released by the Famous Players Company, also in 1916, and intriguingly, was re-released on August 3, 1919. I wonder if the re-release was intended to prime New York audiences for the play.

Strange streetcars

The car is of the low-floor design by Frank Hedley and ? Doyle, familiarly known as "Broadway battleships." They came in several flavors: As shown, double-decked and a single-truck, battery-powered car.

Movie inspiration

According to what I've been able to find, the inspiration for the show was not "Oh! What a Whopper" but rather the 1916 silent comedy "Miss George Washington."

Broadway: Its History, People, and Places, by Ken Bloom.

As a lover of obscure old theatre, I'd be fascinated to have a definitive answer. My first comment at your wonderful site – a daily joy. I wish we had something similar here in the UK.

Moorish Fantasy

Designed by New York architects Kimball & Wisedell, the 875-seat Casino Theatre was built by producer Rudolph Aronson in 1882. It was the first theater designed specifically for musical comedy productions, and included restaurants, New York's first roof garden, and, yes, a gambling casino. Its astonishing "Moorish" style architecture was inspired mostly by Spain's Alhambra, but the cupola owes more to Cairo minarets and other details were lifted from Mughal Indian monuments. The photo posted by Bob Wilson, Jr. was taken in either 1897 or 1900, by which time the facades had received their perilous looking fire escapes. The auditorium (below) was even more fanciful than the exterior. The Casino was demolished in 1930. A complete list of the Casino's productions can be seen on the Internet Broadway Database, at www.ibdb.com/venue.php?id=1085

Boys Being Boys

Given the title of this play, I expected to read several bawdily humorous, yet predictably juvenile, gibes. Don't disappoint me.

Wireless

That isn't a trolley car. No wires are visible, and no trolley pole. It must have been a cable car.

[This is an electric streetcar with underground power supply. - Dave]

Broadway view

Another view including the nearby Winter Garden and Knickerbocker Theatres.

1404 Broadway at W 39th

The architecture of its building is fascinating. And what's with the strange shape of the stern of that trolleycar?

1897-1992

Vivienne Segal died in 1992. NYT obit.

"Above Average!!!" -- NYT

The new entertainment at the Casino Theatre is a musical comedy above the average.

"The Little Whopper," as the title doubtless indicates, tells the story of a minor falsehood grown to major proportions. Beginning as a subterfuge by which Vivienne Segal hopes to gain an afternoon off from a girls' seminary, it spreads until it embraces the friends of all concerned, compels an unmarried couple to pose as a honeymooning pair, and in general brings on a series of not altogether unfamiliar farcical complications.

Regards to Broadway

As a retired Broadway stagehand, I find these these theater photos to be of particular interest. The Casino was torn down in 1930, so it was before my time. It was a Shubert house for most of its life. The Shuberts are still the biggest theater owners on Broadway. I think they should revive "The Little Whopper." Just for the title, if nothing else.

"A Good Farce, With Tuneful Music"

This well-received musical farce ran for 204 performances, from October 13, 1919, through April 3, 1920. Rudy Friml wrote the music, with lyrics by Bide Dudley, to a book by Otto Harbach. Unusually for the time, the play was inspired by a two-reel silent movie comedy released in 1916, titled "Oh! What A Whopper!" The plot revolved around a little white lie told by a girl, played by Vivienne Segal, who wants an afternoon off from her boarding school, and, of course, the little lie gets out of hand. The New York Times gave the production a friendly review, published on October 16, 1919, with these mostly kind words for the star:

"Miss Segal has developed into rather a saucy young woman with an increasing assurance, an attractive way, a pleasing voice and scant dancing ability."

 
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