Chapter 7 Extras

I’m Gonna Settle Up

Sophie Tucker’s bawdy repertoire was in full swing by 1928. A classic Tucker number filled with double entendres is “Oh, You Have No Idea,” with music by Dan Dougherty and words by Phil Ponce.

Audiences adored Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and his understated style of tap, which relied on his busy feet and expressive face and seldom incorporated his upper body. He began dancing at the age of five and had joined a travelling company by the time he was twelve. Bojangles was a star in both the black and white entertainment worlds of his era, but was best known for his dancing with Shirley Temple in a series of films during the 1930s.

Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton was famous in the silent film era for his physical comedy and deadpan expression, which earned his nickname "The Great Stone Face.” Keaton's  The General has been called the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made.

In 1913, Irving Berlin accepted an invitation to perform in London. He called a press conference shortly after his arrival. He made the mistake of admitting to the press that he could neither read nor write music, so he offered to compose a song on the spot with any title the journalists suggested. He tapped out the melody with one finger—and soon the public was reading that he could not play the piano, either. In a panic, Berlin went back to his hotel to compose a new song to open his show.

He wrote all night and, when neighboring hotel guests complained about his piano playing, he filled the piano with towels to muffle the sound. He completed “That International Rag” by sunrise and the new song and Berlin’s show received rave reviews. Sophie introduced the song to Vaudeville a few months later but never recorded it. Instead, it appeared as a number in the 20th Century Fox film Alexander’s Ragtime Band , the 1948 MGM film Easter Parade, and in 1953's Call Me Madam.

This recording of Sophie singing “The International Rag” comes from a CBS special radio show tribute to Berlin on August 3, 1938. You will also hear Al Jolson accompanying Tucker.