Welcome to the Larry411.com Guest Columnists! April 27, 2013
In my travels to the best film festivals in…
Sophie Tucker. If that name doesn't conjure up images of "The Last of the Red Hot Mamas," ask your parents...if they're still around. Or your grandparents. Or great-grandparents. Chances are they -- all of them -- were entertained by Sophie Tucker sometime in their lives.
This larger-than-life star -- singer, actress, dancer, comedienne -- had a wildly successful career that spanned several generations throughout the 20th century and paved the way for many contemporary icons like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Bette Midler, Marilyn Monroe, Joan Rivers, and Mae West. Tucker was the original diva, at a time when it had nothing but positive connotations. Well, for the most part. Controversy followed her every step of the way but not because of her behavior as much as for the bawdy, naughty, double entendre-filled content of her act...and audiences ate it up.
She defied all the odds. Tucker was a woman, Jewish, and, shall we say, not the svelte pinup queen that comes to mind when we think of 20th century starlets. Despite all that, she became a legend in her time. She was there when they invented the phonograph...and recorded some of the first records. She was there when they invented the talkie...and was right there on the heels of Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer. She was there when they invented radio and television. She tackled them all and took no prisoners.
But her light would shine most brightly on the stage...first, in vaudeville and on Broadway...later, in nightclubs. And, perhaps, that is why she's all but forgotten in the 21st century, for live performance is not permanent unless recorded and replayed. She was arguably the world's biggest superstar for nearly 60 years. But because she eschewed the silver screen in favor of clubs, despite her numerous appearances on programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, unless you were there she is lost to history.
Susan and Lloyd Ecker are about to change that. With the book I Am Sophie Tucker and the about-to-be-released documentary The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, along with an accompanying CD and website, Sophie Tucker is born again. In the works is a Broadway production and, perhaps, more movies and books...and a resurgence of interest in this groundbreaking performer. The film includes a multitude of images from her 400 scrapbooks in which she saved every single picture, every letter, every postcard and clipping and printed item about herself. The Eckers had access to all these materials in nearly a decade of research...during which they pored over every single page...along with rare archival footage and audio recordings.
They enlisted legendary Grammy-winning record producer Phil Ramone for the project and coaxed on-camera interviews from Barbara Walters Tony Bennett, Carol Channing, Michael Feinstein, Shecky Greene, and Bruce Vilanch. Tucker hobnobbed with seven U.S. presidents, kings and queens, and legends such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Jerry Lewis, Charlie Chaplin, Al Capone, and J. Edgar Hoover. You'll see and hear stories about her relationships with them all, as well as Paul Anka, Kaye Ballard, Chubby Checker, Joe Franklin, Brenda Lee, Tony Martin, Mickey Rooney, Connie Stevens, Mamie Van Doren, and Rusty Warren.
She also spent quite a bit of time here in South Florida, where her talent was honed and her presence was legendary. For that reason, the film is having its World Premiere here, in Sophie Tucker's old stomping ground.
I sat down with writers/producers/hosts Susan and Lloyd Ecker for a delightful in-depth discussion about the film. We chatted for over a half hour but could easily have gone on all afternoon. It is posted below. There are no spoilers in this interview. Click the HD icon to be taken to Vimeo where you can watch it in high definition.
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker is an Innovative Films production, directed by William Gazecki (Waco: The Rules of Engagement, for which he received an Oscar nomination), who also served as cinematographer and editor. It was produced by Susan and Lloyd Ecker. Executive Producers were two-time Grammy winner Phil Ramone and Gene Schwam.
The movie has a running time of 1:36 and is being released through Menemsha Films on 10 screens in South Florida on November 7th. It will expand nationwide through the end of the year into 2015. Susan and Lloyd Ecker will attend select screenings opening weekend for a Q&A. You can see The Outrageous Sophie Tucker at the following theaters:
Miami - Tower Theater Miami
Miami Beach - Regal South Beach Cinema 18
Aventura - AMC Aventura 24
Fort Lauderdale - AMC Coral Ridge 10
Tamarac - The Last Picture Show Movie Theater
Boca Raton - Living Room Theaters FAU
Boca Raton - Regal Shadowood 16
Delray Beach - Movies of Delray
Lake Worth - Movies Of Lake Worth
Palm Beach Gardens - Downtown Cobb Theaters
OFFICIAL SITE: sophietucker.com
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In my travels to the best film festivals in…