This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Laurel & Hardy classic March of the Wooden Soldiers. Originally released as Babes In Toyland on Nov. 30, 1934, the holiday perennial was based on Victor Herbert’s popular 1903 operetta. The film came out of Hal Roach studios and was co-directed by Gus Meins and Charles Rogers.
Here’s the trailer:
To celebrate this occasion, I present to you….
10 Things You May Not Know About March of The Wooden Soldiers
1) In addition to Babes In Toyland, the film was also re-released under several different titles, including Laurel and Hardy in Toyland and Revenge Is Sweet.
2) Although the 1934 film includes many of the characters in the original operetta, the plot is almost completely different. Six musical numbers from the original stage score are featured: “Toyland”, “Never Mind Bo-Peep”, “Castle in Spain”, “Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)” and the instrumental “March of the Toys”. Additionally, an instrumental version of “I Can’t Do The Sum” is used to underscore many scenes.
3) The villainous Silas Barnaby was played by 22 year old Henry Kleinbach. He later changed his name to Henry Brandon and appeared in over 100 films throughout his 60 year career.
Brandon played essentially the same character as an opera impresario who torments poor poor Alfalfa in Our Gang Follies of 1938.
20 years later he was Acacious Page in Auntie Mame.
Another fun fact: Brandon’s partner for the last 25+ years of his life was Mark Herron, who was briefly married to Judy Garland.
Bill Cassara and Richard S. Greene recently published a book about him.
You can also find out more about Henry Brandon here
4) The Little Rascals (aka Our Gang) also filmed at Hal Roach studios. Several of the gang appear as schoolchildren in Toyland, although not dressed as they appear in this photo sitting atop Mother Peep’s Shoe-house.
One of the most popular Our Gang / Little Rascals shorts, Mama’s Little Pirate was filmed the same year and has an extended sequence shot in the caves of Bogeyland. Gus Meins directed both films.
Another Our Gang connection: two graduates of the silent era, Johnny Downs and Jean Darling appear as Little Boy Blue and Curly Locks:
5) Felix Knight played romantic lead Tom Tom and fell in love with co-star Alice Moore, who played the Queen of Hearts. They were married the following year.
Knight also appeared with Laurel and Hardy in their 1936 film – The Bohemian Girl:
6) Marie Wilson makes an early film appearance as Mary Quite Contrary. Her later work in film, radio and television (most notably My Friend Irma) garnered her three stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
7) Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf? An instrumental version of this song is used to underscore scenes with the Three Little Pigs. However, the song is not from the original Babes In Toyland operetta – it was originally featured in the 1933 Disney short Three Little Pigs and (surprisingly) has been covered by everyone from Barbra Streisand to LL Cool J.
8) About those pigs…. Elmer, the kidnapped pig was played by a little person – 2′ 11″ Angelo Rossito.
The two other pigs were played by child actors:
Payne B. Johnson played Jiggs. As of 2019, he is the last living major player from the film.
And THIS little piggy…. was a porn star! Willie was played by Edward Earle Marsh, later a Broadway performer known as Edward Earle. He then reinvented himself as Zebedy Colt, an out gay cabaret singer and porn star who appeared in both gay and straight movies through the 1970’s & 80’s.
Someone needs to write a book about this guy.
9) The film became a broadcast television staple on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in the early 1960’s. I grew up watching the film on NYC’s WPIX Channel 11, which continues to air the film to this day. In 1990 they switched to the colorized version, and in 2018, due to viewer requests, they began airing both the restored black and white and colorized versions at different times during the day.
Some may remember a shorter version of the film airing on television years ago. A 73 minute version was broadcast for a few years in the 1980’s, with the opening “Toyland” song sequence trimmed and the “Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)” number cut completely. Any restored prints or colorized versions of the film run at the original 79 minute length.
If it isn’t broadcast in your area, you can watch the full movie here:
10) Keeping in mind that the source material is the original operetta and not this film, there have been numerous other versions of Babes In Toyland:
Between 1950 and 1960, there were three television versions, all broadcast during the Christmas season, including one featuring Barbara Cook and Dennis Day in 1955.
Walt Disney’s Technicolor 1961 film version starred Annette Funicello and Ray Bolger.
A 1986 made for television version featured Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves, with only two songs from the Victor Herbert score, a new plot, and many new songs by Leslie Bricusse.
An 1997 animated film version, with a new plot and only one of the original songs, featured the voices of Christopher Plummer and Lacey Chabert.
These other versions come and go, but none feature Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee…. nightmare-inducing pig masks …. a monkey dressed as a Mickey Mouse knockoff…. or poorly costumed Bogeymen with visible zippers and padding.
Join me in wishing a Happy 85th Birthday to a Hollywood Holiday Classic!
I have written about late photographer Don Herron’s Tub Shots photo series here and here. Every once in a while I come across one that I’ve never seen. Here is Tales Of The City author Armistead Maupin in 1978:
There’s a show on after the 11pm local news here in NYC called NBC Sports Night. To be honest, I only watch for the snacks. This was last Sunday: 10/20/19 – A discussion about football or rugby or something…. over a radiant bowl of fresh Nacho Doritos.
Neil Patrick Harris recently posted this photo of his injured hand. No word on whether that swelling has been attended to. 😮
You’ve probably seen Pulitzer Prize winning Ronan Farrow making the rounds to promote his new book, Catch And Kill. It’s a rare season that our handsome hero doesn’t make headlines with yet another reporting expose that rocks our world.
But when the dust clears after each bombshell revelation, one pesky rumor trails behind like exhaust fumes, winding its way through social media outlets: Speculation that Farrow is actually the son of Frank Sinatra. These posts are usually illustrated with side-by-side comparative pics of the two.
Here’s an idea: the next time you feel an urge to re-post or share a link perpetrating this improbable myth, consider looking at a photo of Farrow next to one of his own mother, actress Mia Farrow when she was young.
They look just alike.
I know. It’s shocking.
Ronan Farrow looks just like his mother.
Here’s another revelation: He strongly resembles her father, the dashing John Farrow.
As for the Sinatra resemblance… have you seen pics of Sinatra with Mia when they married in 1966? He was 30 years older than his bride. SHE looks like his kid. She looks more like his kid than his OWN kids. Ol’ Blue Eyes married a young blue-eyed pixie. Good genes all around.
In a 2013 Vanity Fair interview, Mia made a joke that Frank “maybe” was Ronan’s father. This vague statement was designed as a dig at Woody Allen, Ronan’s alleged biological father. The reality is that when Ronan was conceived, Sinatra was 72, over a decade into his marriage to his last wife Barbara, and reportedly had undergone a vasectomy years prior.
Vasectomy aside, for Sinatra to be Ronan’s father, Mia Farrow would have to have been sleeping with her ex-husband nearly twenty years after their divorce – while they were both in relationships with other people. Does this make Mia look good? Not at all. Is it more important for her to continue to make Woody Allen’s twilight years miserable? Definitely.
I can’t be the only one that feels that this sort of thing undercuts Ronan’s credibility on some level.
I’ll be honest – I lean toward Team Mia when it comes to most details involving Woody. But the whole “maybe” regarding Ronan’s paternity is unfair and disrespectful to Sinatra’s late wife and his biological children. And even though the Sinatra clan answered questions regarding this rumor years ago (respectfully and without mudslinging, I might add), those rebuttals don’t seem to accompany the re-posts that raise the question again and again… a rumor that will continue to resurface until Mia and her look-alike son stop playing coy and put the matter to rest.
Social media followers of porn legend Trevor Knight were starting to suspect something might be amiss in his relationship with longtime partner David Alanson Bradberry. The normally effusive Knight had not mentioned his significant other in quite some time, instead focusing on his workout regime while posting increasingly revealing selfies (one of which resulted in a temporary Facebook suspension).
Last week he posed the question of whether he should resume his porn career, because ” …guys today don’t make anything like I used to.” Surprise! The responses were overwhelmingly in agreement.
On Thursday Trevor posted to Facebook what many had already suspected: the couple had split a while ago.:
I feel a need to let everyone know that David Alanson Bradberry and I are no longer together. I’ve been single for awhile now. I don’t need any calls, texts or DMs. I’m doing it alone. I will not answer any questions.
He was part of me for 9 years and I will never forget him nor lose contact with him. We made a family together and so we work together with that..
Thank you for understanding and respecting my space..
-The very single, Trevor Knight
Bradberry had been a cast member on Bravo TV’s Below Deck and his engagement to Knight was captured on the show in 2013. In an interview at the time, Bradberry said; “We actually first met during pre-production of my first feature independent film, Bite Marks. I had already been cast, and I was helping with the readings for the other principle roles. Trevor was working as the film’s Assistant Director. This was my first ‘mainstream’ project following my short stint in the adult industry. and Trevor never (really) left the adult industry. I’m certainly not proud of the fact that I worked in adult films, but I’m not ashamed of it either.”
Under the name David Townson, former Marine Bradberry filmed two versatile hands full of memorable scenes for Active Duty and other military-themed gay porn sites.
(I’m always surprised when one of these guys actually DOES turn out to be a real military man.)
In case you forgot, Trevor Knight is a gay porn legend, having appeared in over 120 films between 2000-2016, working with every major company from Falcon to MEN to Raging Stallion. His return to the industry seems inevitable… and not unwelcome. We wish them both all the best at this difficult time.
December 21st. I am never quite sure how to handle this day. Do I ignore it? If I acknowledge it, does it seem exploitative somehow? What level of grief is acceptable? We were the class behind them. We were their friends and co-workers, but we were not their BEST friends. We were the ones back in Syracuse. We did not go to London for that Fall semester – most of us had not seen them since the previous May. Of course, we were not family. But we did go through it. It happened to all of us. “We.” We all hung on to each other and we made our way through.
We sat a couple of rows back at the memorials. We were devastated, too, but how do you calibrate your grief? You feel what you feel. We were 19, 20 years old. And it has now been 30 years. There is still a scar on each of us somewhere. It does not matter how much you look at it or if you ignore it, talk about it or don’t talk about it. You still have it. All of us that went through it have them. Our own individual scars – each a little different. Some deeper than others. We have our reunions and little get-togethers but we do not discuss it. For the most part. There is no need to.
And I say to myself: I will address this one day. To explain to everyone else, really. All the people that have become a part of my life since then. 10 years goes by. 20 years. 25 years. One day I will address that scar. One day I will write about what it was like. What these people meant. How we found out who was and was not on the plane. The confusion. The anger. The unimaginable wave of sorrow. How we coped with it.
Ah, but then you get through the day… the week…. and you tell yourself, well… let’s just pack that away for another year. Focus on the holidays! I mean, really…. you were a few rows back. Your feelings are once-removed. What do you have to say that has not already been said so eloquently? What unique perspective do you think you are bringing to the table? Calibrate that. And then pack it away with the rest of the holiday baggage.
So I’ve cracked the door open just a bit on this 30th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. For Theo and Miriam and Nicole and Turhan and Tim. And for everyone that knew them.
I have always loved Christmas music. I tend to listen to older music all year round, but when it comes to sharing music with the general public, this is the only time of year when Brenda Lee is considered cool. To combat the 60’s holiday tracks that are over-covered and overplayed, I am always searching for more obscure holiday recordings by girl groups and female vocalists that are not on radio or Spotify playlists.
When I began hosting my internet radio show 60 Degrees back in 2008, it started an annual tradition of putting together a holiday program full of female 60’s singers and girl groups, interspersed with vintage commercials and sound clips from classic holiday movies and television shows. You can listen to the Halloween show here.
East Village Radio was a pirate radio station that went legit and switched to the internet, broadcasting from a storefront in New York’s Lower East Side. This first 60 Degrees holiday show debuted on December 22, 2008 and was repeated annually throughout the shows 5 year run. By 2012, the holiday programs had gained such a following that 60 Degrees was given an uninterrupted 16 hour marathon on Christmas Day.