Saturday, September 29, 2012

Andrew L. Erdman's "Queen of Vaudeville"

Andrew L. Erdman is the author of Blue Vaudeville: Sex, Morals, and the Mass Marketing of Entertainment, 1895–1915.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay:
In 1952, Twentieth Century-Fox released The I Don’t Care Girl, a movie putatively about the life of Eva Tanguay. Alas (as you can read in my book Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay) they didn’t get it much right. It had Mitzi Gaynor and Oscar Levant and lots of flashy sets and Bob Fosse-style choreography. But it ended up really being about a bunch of movie producers on the Fox lot trying to cobble together Eva Tanguay’s history. It was their story, not hers.

If I could have some say in a film about the actual life of the Twentieth Century’s first true lady megastar, it’d be different. Who would I cast? Here are some thoughts…

As Eva Tanguay, I could see Renée Zellweger, her shiny blonde mane all curled up and her demeanor nothing but up-and-down wild, crazy, lovely, and sad. There is also the comic Maria Bamford, who I adore. Not sure if she can sing, dance, or act—but then, Eva Tanguay considered that she herself could in fact do none of those things.

Eva never got along very well with men. But the women in her life—her sister and nieces, and her lady vaudevillians—formed her closest-knit sorority of intimates. As the corpulent comedienne Trixie Friganza, I could see Roseanne Barr or maybe Leah Remini (if she packed on a few more pounds).

As Eva’s matronly, husband-chasing sister, Blanche, how about Carrie Fisher?

Her niece, Lillian, could be played by Robin Weigert, and her other niece, Ruth, Emma Stone.

Eva negotiated hard with vaudeville’s biggest impresarios, B. F. Keith and E. F. Albee. David Cross could play Keith and Edward Norton, Albee.

Of course, the most famous impresario was legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld, played by Ricky Gervais.

Eva liked her men, too—in some ways. She had an illicit but well-publicized affair with journalist C. F. Zittel, who could be played by Tony Shaloub.

From 1913 to 1917, Eva was quite unhappily married to the drunken clog-dancer Johnny Ford, who could be played by Hugh Jackman. Later, in the 1920s, Eva was briefly married to her piano accompanist Al Parado, who could be played by brilliant BBC funnyman David Mitchell.

She allegedly had an affair with African-American comedian George Walker, but race relations then were not so liberal as they are now. Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.) could play Walker.

Edward Darling, to be played by Giovanni Ribisi, loved Eva and took good care of her as her manager and sometime fiancé, but she dumped him.

The only man Eva truly loved, it is rumored, was composer Melville Collins, to be played by Michael Bublé. But he married her niece, Lillian.

Speaking of nieces, Eva had one more, Florence. Of course, Florence was really, in all likelihood, Eva’s illegitimate daughter. Ellen Page could do the honors.

There were a few other characters in her life, including a “Wanderer” with whom she had a disastrous affair. He was probably named Albert Donald Walk—Eva never revealed his identity. How about John Hawkes? She had an equally disastrous coupling with vaudevillian Roscoe Ails, whom Robert Pattinson could play.

Eva’s French-Canadian mother, who died when the actress was just eleven, could be played by Mélanie Laurent.

As for Eva’s father, he was a distant figure in her life. He died when Eva was six and left the family penniless. Maybe Adrien Brody?
Learn more about Queen of Vaudeville at Andrew L. Erdman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Queen of Vaudeville.

--Marshal Zeringue