Chapter 23 Extras

That Naughty Melody

“I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone?” is a ragtime/blues song written by Sophie’s old friend Shelton Brooks in 1913.The words that are printed on the original sheet music are the cleaned up version. Aside from “Some of These Days,” this title was Brooks’ second most popular tune.

Twenty years later the song showed up in the 1933 movie She Done Him Wrong, in which Mae West once again “borrowed” Tucker’s material, though she sang it with the original lyrics. By then, motion picture censors were starting to exert their influence by eliminating anything even remotely suggestive. Otherwise, West would certainly have used Sophie’s more powerful stage lyrics.

Burns and Allen, an American comedy duo consisting of George Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen, worked together as a comedy team in vaudeville, films, radio and television and achieved great success over four decades.

Burns wrote most of the material and played the straight man. Allen played a silly "Dumb Dora" archetype common in early 20th-century vaudeville comedy. Early on, the team played the opposite roles until they noticed that the audience was laughing at Gracie's straight lines, so they made the change. In later years, each attributed their success to the other.

This is a clip from one of the episodes from their TV show which ran from 1950-1958.

In 1913 when Al Jolson opened his new musical The Honeymoon Express, the big show stopping number was “Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle,” written by Fred Fischer and Alfred Bryan. Even though the original words were much less sexually explicit, Jolson routinely had to do at least two encores each night before the show could continue.

In 1930, Al Jolson decided to put the "Mrs. Rip Van Winkle" number in his 1930 movie Mammy. This was four years before the government’s Hayes Code started cracking down with stricter sexual censorship on Hollywood scripts. As you will see in this movie clip, Jolson decided to update his original performance with Sophie’s racier lyrics. We are guessing Sophie returned Jolson’s favor from 1913.