Banjo Eyes: Eddie Cantor and the Birth of Modern Stardom

By Herbert G. Goldman | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

EYES ON THE MEDIUM

"I hope you like Palmy Days, but it wasn't made for you. It was made for the masses." -- Eddie Cantor

Eddie Cantor was not merely broke on October 31, 1929; he owed Manufacturers Hanover Trust $285,000 -- close to ten million dollars in the money of the mid-1990s. On paper, Cantor was in worse financial shape than he had been when living with his grandmother in the backyard house on Market Street.

The sudden loss of his wealth did not shake Cantor's faith in the American dream as it shook that of others in the theatre. He was still a young man, and the continued sight of his name in lights at the New Amsterdam served as nightly balm for the loss of his considerable fortune. Cantor's courage, born of his hard background on the Lower East Side sidewalks, always surfaced strongly in a crisis. It was "business as usual," and no one, save for Ida, saw him looking worried in the weeks after the crash.

He continued speaking out on actors' issues. The Broadway crisis of 1928-29 had caused managers and playwrights to explore the possibility of Sunday night performances. Cantor spoke at an Equity meeting called to vote on the proposal at the Hotel Astor on Monday afternoon, November 18.

"They say that there is a disease in the theatre; I claim it is a cancer. To cure cancer, the medical profession uses radium, and if Sunday night performances are permitted, it is comparable to alleviating the disease by treating it with dope. That won't cure it." The proposal was defeated by a ratio of three to one.

He soon went back to playing private parties. Even Ziegfeld offered no objections now, and Cantor earned five thousand dollars for singing all the

-135-

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Banjo Eyes: Eddie Cantor and the Birth of Modern Stardom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue - More Than Meets the Eyes xi
  • Chapter 1 - The Bubba and Her Itchik 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Turning 20
  • Chapter 3 - The Climb 36
  • Chapter 4 - The Follies 57
  • Chapter 5 - Of Equity and Shuberts 75
  • Chapter 6 - Kid Boots 94
  • Chapter 7 - Whoopee 116
  • Chapter 8 - Eyes on the Medium 135
  • Chapter 9 - The Peak 158
  • Chapter 10 - "Before L' Ma Performer. . ." 183
  • Chapter 11 - "We'Re Having a Baby" 212
  • Chapter 12 - The Other Madonna 229
  • Chapter 13 - Colgate Comedy Hour 256
  • Chapter 14 - "... and You Have to Give It All Back " 282
  • Epiloeue - "0ld Perf0rmers Never Die . . ." 308
  • Notes 313
  • Bibliography - Books by Eddie Cantor (chronologically Arranged) 316
  • Stageography 317
  • Filmography 356
  • Radiography 370
  • Televisionograpghy 377
  • Discography 381
  • Index 395
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