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Sunday, September 15, 2013

More From Vaudeville's Past


Block and Sully in The Wrong, Wrong Trail (1934)

Jesse Block and Eva Sully were a husband-and-wife vaudeville team. They lived long, according to IMDB, and I hope, prospered. This Vitaphone short was oddly the only screen appearance by the pair, other than small parts in Kid Millions the same year (or so IMDB says). I'll bet they did lots of theatre appearances, supplying a live act prior to movies (indeed that's true, according to Anthony Slide's indispensable Vaudeville Encyclopedia). Block and Sully were distinctly George and Gracie-like, she dumb and him exasperated. Both teams' wordplay, as it turns out, was supplied by a same writer. Block said later that they once used a starting-out scribe named Herman Wouk of later The Caine Mutiny fame, who last time I checked, was still alive (age 97). Author Trav S.D. (that's his name) relates in his fine No Applause --- Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous how Eva Sully introduced the phrases Some nerve!, I'll say!, and I'll bet you say that to all the girls! into our lexicon. If true, there should be a statue to honor this woman. The Wrong, Wrong Trail is no gem other than a showcase for Block and Sully, that alone making it a must, as they give glimpse to mirror image of Burns and Allen and other couple/comic acts that flourished during vaudeville's long run. The Wrong, Wrong Trail is among shorts compiled in Warner Archives' Vitaphone Comedy Collection: Volume One.

3 Comments:

Blogger ClassicMovieFan said...

John,

I'm a big fan of Block & Sully.

According to an article in an old movie magazine, in the 1920s Jesse Block originally had a cute blonde woman in the act and they were engaged to be married. Unfortunately, in typical Vaudeville fashion, one day he went to their dressing room at the theatre to find a "dear John" letter from her--making him a single. Some time later in his agent's office, while his agent was consoling him, there was this short brunnette in the office looking for a partner. He was irritated with her immediately and after some sarcastic comments, she replied, "..look at him!" (her trademark line) and an act was born.

Eventually Jesse Block fell in love with little Eve Sully and they were married. They became headliners in Vaudeville, and there is some debate whether they were influenced by Burns & Allen or vice versa. In the early 30s Eddie Cantor wanted to add a comedy team to his radio show and held auditions. Bock & Sully for some reason couldn't make the audition in time, and the job went to Burns & Allen.

Block & Sully were so disappointed they caught up with Cantor in Florida and "just happened" to bump into him. He liked them and cast both in his picture KID MILLIONS, and they were a hit. In KID MILLIONS, they only have limited time together on screen, but Eve is totally hilarious as a Bronx-born Jewish harem girl!

They did various short films, clubs and radio, eventually retiring in the 1940s. Jesse Block eventually became a wealthy stock broker.

2:08 AM  
Blogger opticalguy said...

So that's who played that memorable part in the Cantor film! I loved her in that!

Spencer Gill (opticalguy1954@yahoo.com)

11:07 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Phrases like "I'll say!" just seem to have appeared via their own accord (if that makes any sense). I'm always impressed when stuff like that can be traced to one particular actor -- double so when it's a woman.

3:04 PM  

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