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Let’s Go Back…..

….back to Pal Joey, 1940’s…

These beautiful pictures come from the private collection of poster, “allofmylife”. I couldn’t identify each picture, so I numbered them for easy reference in discussions. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. And thank you, allofmylife, for sharing your precious collection with other Pal Joey fans.

Who was George Tapps?

We said in an earlier post that Harold Lang was the second Joey Evans (1952 production). This is not quite accurate. While it’s true that Gene Kelly was the first Joey in 1940, it is not widely known that Kelly left a couple of months before the show closed on Broadway at the end of November, 1941. His replacement was an accomplished dancer named George Tapps.

George Tapps

George Tapps

Pal Joey was Tapps’ fifth Broadway show but his first as leading man. Immediately before Pal Joey, in a widely-praised performance, Tapps had appeared in the Rodgers & Hart musical, I’d Rather Be Right, starring George M. Cohan.
George Tapps was born in Washington Heights, New York, as Mortimer Alfonse Becker in 1911. He began his dance career at age 7, and appeared on Broadway for the first time in 1927 at age 16. He later became famous for his acclaimed interpretation of Ravel’s Bolero, which combined ballet with tap, a revolutionary approach.
Tapps apparently did well as Joey, playing out the remainder of the Broadway run and then touring with the show. Lorenz Hart, however, never liked Tapps in the part and was forceful in telling director George Abbott how he felt, “How could you do this to the show with this terrible man, this Georgie Tapps? How could you do this to me?”
Abbott responded, “We could afford him.”
Below is a video of a nightclub number from the 1937 United Artists film, Vogues of 1938. Tapps appears about halfway through the video clip (at timecode 2:40). The song is Oscar-nominated “That Old Feeling,” sung in the film by Virginia Verrill. It is plain to see why Tapps was chosen to replace Gene Kelly in Pal Joey. His performance in this number is electrifying and displays the same type of graceful athleticism that characterized Kelly’s work.

The Annotated ‘Zip’

The song Zip is one of the highlights of Pal Joey. It is a thinly disguised spoof of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, who had introduced a new “high-class” form of stripping: she recited intellectual patter while taking her clothes off. The song features numerous references to people and things much better known in 1940. We provide here an annotated Zip with the obscure references explained. (There are 18 Notes–you may need to click on the post’s title above to see all of them.)

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer

Zip! Walter Lippmann (1) wasn’t brilliant today.
Zip! Will Saroyan (2) ever write a great play?
Zip! I was reading Schopenhauer (3) last night.
Zip! And I think that Schopenhauer was right.
I don’t want to see Zorina (4),
I don’t want to meet Cobina (5).
Zip! I’m an intellectual.
I don’t like a deep contralto,
Or a man whose voice is alto.
Zip! I’m a heterosexual.
Zip! It took intellect to master my art.
Zip! Who the hell is Margie Hart (6)?
Zip! I consider Dali’s (7) painting passé.
Zip! Can they make the Metropolitan (8) pay?
Zip! English people don’t say clerk, they say clark.
Zip! Anybody who says clark is a jark!
I have read the great Cabala (9),
And I simply worship Allah.
Zip! I am just a mystic.
I don’t care for Whistler’s mother (10),
Charley’s Aunt (11), or Shubert’s brother (12).
Zip! I’m misogynistic (13).
Zip! My intelligence is guiding my hand.
Zip! Who the hell is Sally Rand (14)?
Whistler's Mother

Whistler’s Mother

Zip! Toscanini (15) leads the greatest of bands.
Zip! Jergens Lotion does the trick for his hands.
Zip! Rip Van Winkle on the screen would be smart.
Zip! Tyrone Power (16) will be cast in the part.
I adore the great Confucius,
And the lines of luscious Lucius (17).
Zip! I am so eclectic.
I don’t care for either Mickey; Mouse or Rooney make me sicky!
Zip! I’m a little hectic.
Zip! My artistic taste is classic and dear.
Zip! Who the hell is Lili St. Cyr (18)?
(1) Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), influential American writer, journalist, political commentator and adviser to Presidents.
(2) William Saroyan (1908-1981), Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright and author. Plays include The Human Comedy and The Time of Your Life. Gene Kelly was appearing in the latter play when he was cast in Pal Joey.
(3) Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 -1860), important German philosopher who believed that man’s desires (physical, sexual and emotional) could never be fulfilled.