The Commodores (1950 edition)

The March 23 1950 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an ad for a singing group named The Commodores for a Toronto Star Free Good Music concert in Meaford:


I couldn’t find out anything about these Commodores, since a Google search obviously turns up a whole lot of stuff about Lionel Richie’s Commodores. YouTube has a link to a song by a 1950s Commodores group, but I don’t know if it’s the same group as in this ad.


Charlie Spivak

The June 17 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star had this ad for an in-store appearance at Eaton’s main store:


Charlie Spivak (1905 or 1907-1982) was a trumpet player and bandleader who was at the peak of his fame in 1946. His nickname was “Cheery, Chubby Charlie”, and he was known as “The Man Who Plays The Sweetest Trumpet In The World”, which would be quite a handle to put on a business card. He was born either in 1905 in New Haven, Connecticut, or in 1907 in the Ukraine; I guess he never told anyone which it was.

YouTube has some examples of his work, including “Stardreams” from 1944.


Four Daughters

The September 14 1938 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad for the movie Four Daughters:


I have no idea whether Jack Warner used this ploy often when advertising his movies – my guess is no, but I don’t know for sure. The critics’ reviews of this movie were generally favourable, though.

The movie featured the Lane sisters – more info on them can be found here. One of the sisters, Lola Lane, was apparently the inspiration for Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane.

The movie is not available on YouTube – somebody tried to post it, but they were busted for copyright violation.


Upside down amusements

The Amusements section of the February 15 1924 Toronto Daily Star was interesting because the typesetter put the word Amusements upside down:


I’ll Say She Is toured for parts of 1923 and 1924 before opening on Broadway on May 19, 1924. It played for 313 performances, and turned the Marx Brothers into stars. It featured 30 “dangerously beautiful girls”.

Little Nellie Kelly opened in Boston in July, 1922, and ran on Broadway in 1922-1923 and London’s West End in 1923-1924. Critics considered it old-fashioned and excessively sentimental, but despite this (or perhaps because of it), it was a huge success. A film version starring Judy Garland was released in 1940.


Damaged Lives

The May 24 1933 Toronto Globe contained this movie ad:


Naturally, I was curious: what movie was so shocking that women and men were required to see it separately? Of course, it had to do with sex: a young executive, in a long-term relationship, is convinced by his boss to go to a party. At the party, he sleeps with a young wealthy woman and contracts a venereal disease from her.

The film also had actual nudity: according to Wikipedia, it contained a scene in which “a group of fun-loving women strip naked and go skinny dipping”.

The Wikipedia entry for Damaged Lives points out that it was produced during the brief period between the invention of pictures with sound and Hollywood’s universal adoption of the Motion Picture Production Code of moral guidelines in 1934. The film was a Canadian-American production, and the Canuxploitation web site provides more details on the plot.

You can view this film on the Internet Archive.


Entertainment options in 1936

I like saving ads for theatre, music, and other entertainment options from the old newspapers that I look at. If people wanted a day out or an evening out, what could they see?

Here’s a few listings from the November 27 1936 Toronto Globe:


Betty Fischer (later known as Betty-Ann Fischer-Byfield) had quite an interesting story. She was born in Kitchener, Ontario, and was abandoned shortly after she was born; she had a deformed leg and no complete fingers on either hand. She was adopted when she was four, and took up the violin almost immediately afterwards, winning a gold medal at the Kitchener Music Festival when she was 8. She went on to become a member of the Toronto Symphony, and died in 1979.

William Beebe (1877-1962) started his career working at the New York Zoological Park, for which he undertook a series of research expeditions. He gradually migrated into marine biology, and used his Bathysphere to set records for the deepest dive ever performed by a human.

The American Classics website has an entry on Blossom Time. It played continuously, somewhere in the United States, between 1921 and 1943.

The Rotten Tomatoes movie website gives Libeled Lady an 82% rating.



The January 23 1930 edition of the Toronto Globe contained these ads for the singer who went by just a single name, Onegin:



Sigrid Onégin (1889-1943) was a contralto born in Sweden to a German father and a French mother. I’m not sure whether she achieved the greatness of immortality, but you can decide for yourself: many of her recordings are on YouTube, including O mio Fernando from 1929.


Annette Hanshaw

Here’s another item from the October 8 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star (I’ve found a lot of interesting stuff there).


Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985) had sold over four million records by 1934, the year in which Radio Stars magazine voted her the best female popular singer. According to a biography on a Jazz Age music site, she was a shy, introverted person who never toured or performed on stage. Her music career ended in 1937 when she retired to become a housewife.

Naturally, YouTube now has the songs mentioned in this ad:


Entertainment options in 1924

The January 18 1924 edition of the Toronto Globe listed a number of entertainment options for people interested in an evening out. Here’s the first group:


The Rosenthal mentioned here was almost certainly Moriz Rosenthal (1862-1946), a Polish pianist and composer. There are a number of recordings of him on YouTube, including this 1937 live recording.

Cecelia Hansen (1897-1989) appears to have a Wikipedia page in German only. She was a Russian-born violin virtuoso. Some of her recordings are on YouTube as well, including this one, which I found quite haunting.

Amelita Galli-Curci (1882-1963) was a self-trained coloratura soprano from Italy who was hugely popular in her prime. A recording of her singing a piece from Act I of La Traviata can be found here.

Sir John Martin-Harvey (1863-1944) was an English actor, known as John Martin Harvey before being knighted in 1921. He was part of Sir Henry Irving’s company of players. Pathé Films has footage of him unveiling a memorial tablet of Irving.

Next up:


Walter Scanlan was the stage name of Walter Van Brunt (1892-1971). The original Walter Scanlan had been a famous 19th century Irish tenor who passed away without making any recordings. Van Brunt, as Scanlan, had 40 hits on the pop charts. He was notorious for having a bigamous affair, which caused his wife Lillian to divorce him in 1925.

Minnie Maddern Fiske (1865-1932), often billed simply as Mrs. Fiske, was widely considered to be the most important female actor in America in the first quarter of the 20th century. She was an animal rights advocate, and fought against the Theatrical Syndicate‘s control of theatre bookings.

The Fool was a play written by Channing Pollock. A Fox film production of this play in 1925 was lost in the Fox vault fire of 1937. I have no idea who the 87 leading Torontonians were – did the Grand Theatre keep a list?

And, finally:


Enter Madame was a three-act comedy written in 1920 that ran for a total of 350 performances on Broadway from 1920 to 1922.

Man and Superman was, of course, a celebrated play by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), originally written in 1903.

After that, the record gets murkier. I could find no record of The Other Wife. The Internet Broadway Database has a record for The Mad Honeymoon, which ran for 16 performances on Broadway in August 1923, but I don’t know anything else about it.

Ella Shields (1879-1952) was a music-hall singer and male impersonator who toured as “Burlington Bertie”. For a while, during the Depression, she was forced to work at a Macy’s jewelry counter in New York, but her career revived in the late 1940s. She worked with a very young Julie Andrews during that time, and may have been the inspiration for Andrews’ character in Victor/Victoria.


Worst billing ever

The July 20 1957 Toronto Daily Star contained this article, in which rats and children were billed ahead of actor Van Johnson:


Naturally, the musical is now on YouTube, and Van Johnson has a Wikipedia page. So does the Pied Piper.