David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Charity, Children

Charity

• The great dancer Bill Robinson, aka Mr. Bojangles, was known for his charity as well as his appearances in movies with Shirley Temple. During the Depression, the 132nd Precinct Station in Harlem kept a list of people it could turn to when a good deed needed to be done — such as buying a family a bag of groceries or paying for a funeral or paying the doctor bill of an ill child. Mr. Bojangles’ name was at the top of the list.

Children

• Many people are familiar with the Oscar-winning 1950 classic film comedy Harvey starring Jimmy Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, a tippler who is befriended by a pooka named Harvey. (A pooka is a Celtic fairy spirit that frequently appears as an animal — always very large. In this particular case, Harvey is a six-foot-plus white rabbit.) Unfortunately, to most people pookas are invisible — Harvey chooses very carefully the people by whom he is seen. Such people are usually harmless rumpots or crackpots. Before Harvey became a movie, it was a play. Once, several children attended a theater performance featuring Mr. Stewart and his invisible friend. During Act I, all went well. But during Act II, Mr. Stewart noticed more and more children whispering to their parents. Finally, one child couldn’t stand it any longer. He stood up and yelled, “WHERE’S THE RABBIT?”

• Marilyn Harris played the little girl whom Frankenstein’s Monster drowned in the movie Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff. In the brief scene, part of which was later edited out, the Monster throws the little girl into the lake, thinking that she will float like a flower. Two takes were needed for the scene, but little Marilyn didn’t want to be thrown into the lake a second time. Therefore, the director, James Whale, promised to give her anything she wanted if she did the scene a second time. She agreed, and she asked for a dozen hard-boiled eggs. A week later, Mr. Whale sent her two dozen hard-boiled eggs.

• The great dancer Bill Robinson, aka Mr. Bojangles, was very protective of Shirley Temple, the child actress with whom he starred in several films. While working in films together, they were known as “One-Shot Temple and Robinson” because they made so few mistakes. One day, Shirley made a mistake, and Mr. Robinson said, “Why don’t you let that child alone? She’s hungry and she’s tired.” He then insisted on a 15-minute break, during which he ate some ice cream. Shirley was chubby then and not allowed to eat ice cream, but he gave her some ice cream when no one was looking.

• Musical comedy star Donald O’Connor of Singin’ in the Rain fame was on stage when he was three days old. His mother was in a vaudeville troupe, and she played piano as she recovered from the pregnancy. As she played, baby Donald was on the piano bench beside her. At 13 months, he was dancing on stage. Well, he wasn’t actually dancing — one of his parents held him up and he moved his feet as fast as he could.

• In San Francisco, comedian Robin Williams (among other roles he has played, his voice is the voice of the genie in the Disney movie Aladdin) stopped in at a Disney store. A mother shopping there recognized him and told her young son, “Look, honey. It’s the genie from Aladdin.” The child looked at Mr. Williams, but seemed confused. Then the child smiled — behind Mr. Williams was a big picture of the Aladdin genie.

• Will Rogers became famous first for his tricks with a rope, then for his jokes as a comedian, and finally for his skills as an actor. However, he didn’t want his own children to be actors. One day, he was very annoyed by a stage mother who was trying to get her child a role in one of his movies. After finally getting rid of her, Mr. Rogers told his own children, “I’m glad you don’t have any talent.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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