Gobo (1929) and more

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Sep 19 02:46:27 UTC 2003

   I can read the microfilm reel's page.  I'll type the whole thing.  Any typos are yours to keep.
   Pg. A2 is the automobile section..."Cake money" and "soup" and "coffee and cakes" are the few food terms here.

              The Washington Post  (1877-1954).       Washington, D.C.: Mar 17, 1929.                   p. A2 (1 page):
   NOW that the musical shows, the vaudeville acts and the stage plays have come to the motion picture screen, Hollywood is struggling with new additions to its already complicated vocabulary.
   Whereas in the past it was difficult enough to keep track of "broads," "gobos" and "turtles," the lay mind is apt to get groggy listening to conversations punctuated with remakrs about "grouch bags," "snakes," "cake money" and "hoofers."
   Even the players are having their vocalistic troubles.  Most of them have had stage experience, but having been for some time in the land of "soup," "truck shots," "rough cuts" and "trailers," they have gotten rusty on the footlights vernacular.
   Then there are some who did not take the stage route to pictures and who, a few weeks ago, did not know "hand sitters" from a "dumb set," or who had never heard of George Spelvin.
   To add to the vocaular difficulties on the film capital, the talkers have a few pet terms of their own.  There are "synchronize" an "interlock," for instance.  And there is the "mixer" and the "playback."
   Any seasoned film trooper will glibly tell you that a "broad" is a large light throwing broadside beams; "gobo" is a piece of heavy black cardboard set to cut off light from a section of a set, and that "turtles" are squat boxes covering connections for electrical cables.
   Some of them are still apt to hesitate and to be a little self-conscious in explaining that a "grouch bag" is the real or mythical receptacles in which a trouper carries his or her season's savings; or that a "snake" is a contortionist, and "hoofers" are dancers.
   Charles "Buddy" Rogers is one of the screen's luminaries, who has learned plenty of new expressions with the coming of the talkies.  Rogers went from University of Kansas directly to the screen, so he missed contact with the "curtain raisers," the "humpty-dumpties" and the "allez-oopers."
   He had a capable teacher in Jack Oakie.  Oakie trouped in vaudeville and did his turns in the musical shows before he went west to Hollywood.  And, as one good turn deserves another, he has voluntarily made himself Rogers' vocabular mentor.
(Last column--ed.)
   "Buddy" revealed to the willing pupil from the musical shows that "hot ropes" are electric cables carrying heavy voltage; "soup" is the chemical solution in which films are developed; the "front office" is the place where the company exectuvies hold their conferences; "cut" is an order for cameras to quit turning; "hot points" are a signal to beware of a camera being carried through a crowd with the sharp ends of the tripod foremost; "trailers" are bits of action from a film used by theaters in advertising coming attractions; "barbering the mob" is putting whiskers on extra players and "save 'em" is the chief electrician's way of ordering
 he lights turned out.  The opportunity for pupil to turn teacher came when the two were assigned feature parts in Paramount's musical play, "Close Harmony."  This being a backstage show, liberally sprinkled with vaudeville and chorus acts, Oakie was right in his element.
   On the other hand, Rogers was somewhat startled when Nancy Caroll came to his dressing room, knocked and asked, "Are you decent?"
   The indignant "Buddy" was on the point of making a warm rejoinder offering character witnesses from Olathe, Kans., to dispel any doubts, when he looked at Oakie.
   From that source he learned that "are you decent?" is an expression much in vogue among stage folks meaning "are you clothed sufficiently to receive visitors?"
   As the production progressed, he also learned that a "magic" is a magician; a "dumb" act is an acrobatic turn; working for "coffee and cakes" is playing for practically nothing while waiting for a better break; "next to closing" is the second to the last act on a vaudeville bill and the spot most desired; "hand sitters" or icicles means a cold audience that is doing no applauding; a "10 per center" is an agent; "fright wig" is a comedy wig equipped with strings that, when pulled, make the hair stand out straight; a "humpty dumpty" is an unintelligent being; "professor" is the orchestra leader, and George Spelvin is a name used in many play casts to bring good luck.
   It is easy to see that vocabulary difficulties are in the offing.

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