December 1, 2012

Robert Wildhack

While thumbing through all of the Bs in Kabletown's on-demand menu to see if they have the movie Butter, I found a cluster of Broadway Melody movies. Ahhhh.

Today's feature was Broadway Melody of 1936. Somehow in my mind I have the Broadway Melody movies, the Golddiggers movies and Footlight Parade all jumbled up into one sweet sticky mess. After a little research I can now tell them apart.

One fun element of BM36 is that it includes several long segments featuring Robert Wildhack, who appears as an expert on snores. He goes on to numb a wary Jack Benny with all of the various types of snores he's cataloged, and performs examples of each. I fell in love with this guy because he was obviously a former vaudevillian like my Uncle Joe. Great Uncle Joe was reputed to have a vaudeville act. It consisted of emitting a seemingly endless stream of water from his mouth onto the stage.

According to Pop, Uncle Joe would go on the stage with a partner, and he would slowly drink an ungodly amount of water. Wordlessly. When he was finished, his partner would pump Joe's arm like an old-fashioned water pump handle. Water would slowly stream out of Joe's mouth. People would laugh. Then they'd stop laughing. As the partner continued to pump, and this steady stream of water would dribble out of Joe, the audience would start laughing again. As it slowly continued for what seemed like *ever*, they'd lose it. 

There you have it. The sum total of Uncle Joe's alleged vaudeville act. Lately I've been trying to find mention of him in old digitized issues of the Dramatic Mirror. I think I might have found someone who sounds like him. Anyhoo...

Because of Uncle Joe, I immediately had a soft spot for this old vaudevillian who appears in the waiting room of the producer in Broadway Melody of 1936. After the credits rolled and I found his name, I did a little searching.

It turns out that Robert Wildhack's bit in the movie about the snores was verbatim from his vaudeville act. You can hear it in its entirety, as well as some other wacky stuff, on the Library of Congress Jukebox site.

In addition, he was an illustrator for various magazines in the 1920s and 30s. For more on Robert Wildhack, visit this lovely biography.

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