Category Archives: 1930’s

The ultimate choreographer?

I thought I would need to blog on some depressing news relating to an area of Huddersfield, but thankfully I’ve been saved by events, but I’m not going to mention what that was, in case I need some inspiration for Sunday’s posting.

Officially, for most of her known dancing career in the movies, there is one choreographer, who it seems Clara Johnson danced in most of his routines. She certainly did dance for others (she seems to have danced for most studios, despite being a Goldwyn Girl for at least part of her career), but its rare to find a Busby Berkeley movie where she isnt in the chorus line. In fact I’m not concerned there are any she missed, but as I havent seen everyone of them, dont quote me on that, she might have missed one, lol.

Oh, why am I posting this today, you ask? Well, on this day, in 1895, the (probably) ultimate choreographer was born. He did do numerous Broadway productions in the 1920’s, but when sound, and musicals struck gold in Hollywood, he went to work there, and of course, because we still have film record of it, its what he’s remembered for.

The man was a genius in a choreograph sense, but clearly no angel. Married 6 times, had issues with alcohol, but somehow survived to 80, before dying of natural causes. He always said he only ever wanted to touch his previous routines, and in truth, he did a pretty good job of it. What I dont know, is what he was like to work for? I suspect he worked the girls hard, but was he fair with it, or did ambition ever just win out?

Just saying that Clara was happy to dance for him for about 7 years isnt really a big clue. She was never more than chorus line material, he was master of the dance routines, so it might just be she had to survive working with him, to pay for the rent, and other things, who knows? Whether he ever knew her as more than ‘one of the dance team’, again who knows?

But yes, when you think of 1930’s choreographed dance routines, in the Hollywood musicals, there is one name that probably comes to mind before all others, Busby Berkeley.

So therefore, ironically, for the video tonight, you get none of the music that the young ladies danced to, just their amazing routines. But yes, got to go with this, as it shows the full gamut of the dance routines he created. And yes, Clara Johnson appears in this mix numerous times!

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A Musical Moment?

Fine, as my only potential ideas for tonight, were politics, which is never a shrewd move, or making comments about the IQ of people from Brighouse, who travel by bus, lets go with a more pleasant, and surprising third option. Yes, a Clara Johnson moment!

For those with short memories, I did a past life regression a few years back, and discovered that I had been an actress in Hollywood, during the late 20’s, and 30’s. No, not the famous one, whose original name I’ve taken, but humble, bit part actress, Clara Johnson!

The annoying thing about bit part actresses back then, is they never got film credits. So, beyond one movie, working out which films she appeared in, impossible challenge! But yes, thats right, in 1937, she got a credit, albeit in an uncredited role, in a movie called Thin Ice.

I must admit, from what I’d discovered about her (not a great deal, but getting there slowly), I assumed she was a dancer in this. She might actually have been a dancer in this, as well as, or instead of, but look at all these uncredited musicians in the orchestra, trying to pretend they’re playing the music! Yes, all female!

So, is Clara in the band, is she one of the audience watching the show, or is she simply in another scene, who knows? Some day soon, I hope to get to watch the movie in full, but even then, its not likely I will truly know which one is her. Annoying, I guess, but at least I’ve now seen a bit of the movie that I know she’s in!

As always, at this moment, if anyone has any more details about Clara E Johnson, photos of her, can identify what she did in this movie, or knows anyone related to her, or even her married name, I’d love to know. Thanks in advance, I hope!

How my past life self (probably) earned her living!

Its fair to say that when you see movie casting lists nowadays, they are so lengthy, they probably include the girl who made the coffee for the actor who appeared for 15 seconds, without saying a line! Fine, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not much! Seriously, some of the credits last nearly as long as the movies do!

However, back in the silent movie days, and the first few years of the 30’s, unless you were a star, your name never appeared on the screen. So, in other words, a Laurel and Hardy film, most times, they were the only 2 credited! Of course, as with Jean Harlow, if one of the bit part actresses made it later, they might (but not always) get added to the cast at some point! But yes, even Myrna Loy, for example, has parts that she never got credits for, even after she made it!

So, if you never made it beyond the general acting, or dancing corp back then, no one, but you, and your friends knew you were in a movie! Didnt mean you couldnt earn a decent living, just that you couldnt earn a credit on Movie Databases!

All of which makes tracing the movie history of my past life self, Clara Johnson, somewhat complex! Its fair to say from what I know, that she acted, and danced in minor roles for at least 10 years (she arrived in LA in ’25, but first evidence I’ve guaranteed of her as an actress is ’28, but probably before that. Last evidence is an uncredited, but named role in ’37, after which she disappeared again, but given that by then, she was 32, I suspect she may have married, and retired, or maybe she was teaching dancing in town?)

But a few things happened around the turn of that decade. The introduction of sound movies brought about a series of musicals, mainly involving a lot of chorus line dancers. Then a few years after that, the first real testing of colour movies came about, and a lot of short, test movies were made, often involving singing, and a lot of dancing. Yes, a lot like this one!

Yes, check the credits, 4 people! Even though IMDB has a few more mentioned, there are a LOT of dancers who arent mentioned even then. And given that though I suspect there were plenty of dancers fighting for roles, its safe to assume Clara was among them! So the likelihood is, somewhere in here is Clara, at the grand age of 28, doing her stuff! Which one, who knows? A few look about the right age, but which one is her? Only wish I knew! I’m hoping that next May, in LA, I might be able to discover more, and in September, in New England, maybe I can be regressed again, and she can give up a lot more secrets! I also wonder if her daughter, who would probably be in her 70’s now, is still alive? I dont know, she had her somewhere between ’38, and ’52, but I have no more details than that. But yes, hunch says it wasnt that long after she married, for sure!

But if anyone, anywhere, knows more details about Clara, and her family, I’d love to know!

Trying to foresee the future

Normally, even when I’m writing science fiction, I tend to work in the period I would call the near future, usually about 10 years ahead, maybe stretching to 20, at a push. Beyond that, I tend to think that we really havent got a clue how things will be in 100 years time, just the same as people about a century back had no idea how things would be now. Its fair to say this video rather proves that.

Actually, some of it they got right, though not necessarily in the right decade, as per the Channel Tunnel. Others, lets just say they got it badly wrong! London to New York, taking a day by air, its about 7-8 hours, and far less when we had Concorde operating! But hey, they forecast the need for men to have pockets for their mobile phone, though I dont remember seeing too many with candies, for cuties!

So yes, for us now to imagine what this world will look like in 2100, no idea? I’m sure, like a century ago, we’d get a few things right, and a good few horribly wrong too.

So fine, you can imagine my reaction when I was supposedly setting a story in 2999, as per someone else’s story idea. What the world will look like by then, even if its still here, how can we possibly comprehend. Even by moving it to 2099, I still ended up with conundrums that I couldnt hope to get right. So I ended up playing it simple, making a few dramatic changes, and leaving it at that.

I mean lets face it, when we look back at the 1920’s, and the only practical way to cross the Atlantic was by ship, and it would take a week to cross, hard to imagine. Mind, looking back at the wild innocence of the Flapper era, maybe we’re missing out on something? Just think, 100 years from now, people will look back on us, in exactly the same way!

I guess it might be interesting to see this world in 2100, not that I will, but anyway…I suspect it would be one hell of a culture shock, for sure!

Unlike OMD, I cant see the future being silent, but I wont know, for sure.