The pictures didn’t get one of them: Week of August 21st, 1920

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The Creole Fashion Plate

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley told of yet another performer lured to Hollywood:

Just wait long enough and the pictures will get ‘em all. From the king to the ashman, they fall for the movies. Now it’s the Creole Fashion Plate, which has been creating a furor at the Orpheum during the past fortnight, and whose name has been discovered to be George Peduzzi.

The company for service in which Mr. Peduzzi will park his remarkably beautiful voice is that of Morris R. Schlanck, who has the comedian, Hank Mann, under contract. Schlanck and Mann attended the Orpheum performance one day last week, and at once saw in Peduzzi a good picture prospect. A 400-foot screen test was taken of him at the Hank Mann studios in Hollywood, and he was at once engaged under a two-year contract…At the expiration of his present season he will return here to work. A five-reel story is even now being prepared.

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Unfortunately, it was not to be. On May 2, 1921 Kingsley reported:

George Peduzzi, remembered here as the sensation of the Orpheum bill during two weeks of last summer, when styled “The Creole Fashion Plate.” who won by personal charm as well as by a remarkably beautiful voice, is not to go into pictures after all. According to word received here by his friends, Mr. Peduzzi is to spend a season in London, appearing there in music halls.

The CFP never did make a movie, which is a shame, because he might be less forgotten now if he had. George Francis Peduzzi was born in Baltimore on June 13, 1897. When he was 16 he joined a minstrel show and became a touring vaudevillian. Three years later, he debuted his solo act, Creole Fashion Plate. He sang and wore beautiful costumes made by his mother, Mary D. Hoffman Peduzzi, who traveled with him as his assistant. He changed his name to Karyl Norman in 1922, taking his deceased father’s first name, Norman, as his surname. He wrote many of his own lyrics and also appeared in musical comedies, including That’s My Boy and The Tuneful Song Shop.

His act impressed the critics; an unsigned L.A. Times review in 1925 said:

“Karyl Norman is today probably the greatest female impersonator on the international stage. His ability to create the illusion of femininity is almost uncanny. He has youth and slenderness, which are merely incidental to his mastery of the gesture, poise and physical features of the deadlier species. And his remarkable double voice, which varies from the lucid heights of a soprano to the husky strength of a baritone, distinguishes him from all other impersonators, past or present.”

It’s interesting how mainstream female impersonators were in 1920’s vaudeville – Julian Eltinge and Bothwell Browne were also big stars. Perhaps to make straight audiences more comfortable with sexual ambiguity, Norman paid lip service to traditional ideas of masculinity in a 1922 interview with the L.A. Times:

“I am a regular fellow and I do most strenuously object to any suggestion that because a man impersonates women, there must be something feminine about him,” and he illustrated the negative of this with a clenched fist hit roundly upon the make-up table in his dressing room. George, or Karyl, is an enthusiastic fight fan, a great rooter at football games, and ardent baseball patron and an amateur player of no mean ability.

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Karyl Norman, from a Finocchio’s Club program

It sounds excessive now, but he knew what his audience wanted to hear. Karyl Norman continued to tour into the 1930’s, but as vaudeville declined he became a nightclub entertainer. His mother died in 1938. During the 1940 Census he was living in Detroit, and gave his occupation as Master of Ceremonies in a nightclub. His World War 2 draft registration said he was working at Club Frontenac in Detroit. In 1946 he toured Australia as part of the cast of Make it a Party. His last appearance was at the Ha Ha Club in Hollywood, Florida. He died of heart disease in that town on July 23, 1947.

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Eugene Gaudio

Kingsley had a story that showed how financially precarious working in film could be. Respected cinematographer Eugene Gaudio died following an operation for appendicitis, and his family had money trouble. So:

Many celebrities of the film world have made requests of Mme. Nazimova for tickets to the benefit-preview of Mme. Peacock, which she is giving Saturday evening at the Irish Theater in Hollywood as a tribute to the late Gene Gaudio, once her cameraman.

The suddenness of Gaudio’s death left his affairs in an unsettled state, thus the star conceived the idea of showing her latest picture as a benefit for the family and as a testimonial of her high regard for the man who served her during the making of five pictures.

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Jennie Gaudio’s 1923 passport photo for a trip to Italy

His family did sort out their money problems and go on to a comfortable life. Jennie Gaudio and their son Joseph (b.1911) and daughter Mary (b. 1912) lived in a nice Mid-City area of Los Angeles on North Ogden Street and the kids attended Fairfax High.

Another of Kingsley’s stories highlighted the physical precariousness of filmmaking. One film director had a really bad idea:

In The Sage Hen, which Edgar Lewis is making for Pathe, and work on which was begun yesterday with Gladys Brockwell in the leading role, there will be attempted by the hero or his double, for the first time in picturedom or out of it, for that matter, the daring feat of going over the Yosemite Falls in a boat. The drop is about 128 feet, but the depth and width of the basin below makes the feat possible for an accomplished swimmer, according to Mr. Lewis and his assistant, Clifford Saum.

Mr. Saum recently made the trip to the valley and after careful calculation has decided the thing can be done. Already twenty expert swimmers have volunteered to perform the feat, despite the difficulty.

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Yosemite Falls. Nobody should go over this, for any reason.

I’m guessing that Mr. Saum saw the falls during their peak flow in May, but by September they’re much drier so fortunately they didn’t do it. In the Motion Picture News review of the film, Matthew A. Taylor mentioned what they replaced it with: “There is a shot of a man going through the rapids of a river in a canoe which is a wonder.” I imagine that was dangerous enough. The story of an unwed mother who gives up her son and is saved by him twenty years later is a lost film.

Finally, this week Kingsley indulged in a little self-promotion:

That catchy record of the doings of picture folks, the Picture Play Magazine, is branching out these days with an entirely new departure in the way of stories. These are of broader interest than the ordinary fan story…A series of articles telling of the romances of great film stars is shortly to be published.

She didn’t feel the need to mention she was writing those great romances. Here’s the first one:

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“Impersonates Woman But is Real Live Chap,” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1922.

“Karyl Norman,” Variety, July 30, 1947, p.50.

“Orpheum Star at Heights as Impersonator,” Los Angeles Times, July 19, 1925.

The Sage Hen, “ Motion Picture News, January 22, 1921, p.921.

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