Jazz It, Red!
September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
Austin in the Jazz Age, as originally written, was 322 pages long. In order to meet the Isabelle Caro-thin manuscript requirements imposed by the History Press, more than two-thirds of the original work was left on the “cutting room floor,” so to speak, including many of the era’s other colorful characters. No one was more colorful than Red Stanley.
C.R. “Red” Stanley (born 1900 in Denton) was one of that first wave of jazzers who came out of the post-war Longhorn Band, which included Jimmy Maloney, Steve Gardner, Burnett “Blondie” Pharr, Red Bourn, and J.D. Howell.
Stanley, the greatest slip horn artist on campus, was best known for his “Shimmie” trombone performances at Clark Field football games with the Longhorn Band.
The fiery-thatched Longhorn Band trombonist left in 1921 for the bright lights of New York with his trombone under his arm, a grin on his face, and hands in his pockets. He joined Irving Aaronson’s orchestra, the Crusaders. The Crusaders made their first recordings in 1925 for an underground company. Victor signed the group to record in 1926 and the group changed its name to the Commanders. The Crusaders made their first recordings in 1925 for an underground company. Victor signed the group to record in 1926 and the group changed its name to the Commanders. During their time with the Victor label (1926 to 1929), the band enjoyed success with Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave” in 1927, and they appeared in the Broadway show, Paris, in 1928, which featured six Cole Porter songs and made Stanley a star. Red choreographed Paris. According to his wife, Anita Garvin (the dark-haired beauty best known for her work with Laurel and Hardy) Stanley was a marvelous dancer, to the point that his music was nothing compared to his dancing. His talent for comedy and comic voices is evident in several of the Commanders’ recordings, such as “Hi Ho the Merrio” and “He Ain’t Done Right by Nell” in 1926. In 1929, the Commanders’ cover of Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love,” was one of the year’s top hits.
Red Stanley made his movie debut as a dancer in The Painted Angel, aka The Broadway Hostess, a 68-minute musical drama that opened on December 1, 1929. The movie’s tag line was “Do you want to know the Truth about NIGHT CLUB HOSTESSES?” It starred Billie Dove, a beautiful ex-Ziegfeld Follies girl, as Mamie Hudler, a New Orleans salon singer who escapes a checkered past by moving to New York City to become Rodeo West, the “queen of the night clubs.” In the process, she finds herself torn between two men. The trouble is, she only desires one of them. It featured five Herman Ruby-M.K. Jerome songs and plenty of dance numbers. Several near-undressing scenes were jammed in, obviously for the sexy, The Film Daily noted at the time.
In 1934, Stanley played in three different 20-minute musical shorts, two of which starred the young Betty Grable. In Love Detectives, two young men competed for the affections of a beautiful blonde, played by Grable. Stanley played one of them, a character named Wells.
In Susie’s Affairs, he plays a character called Putty Face. Young Susie Lee (Betty Grable) and her friends pretend that they’re rich society kids. Susie Lee concocts a scheme in which she takes over a socialite’s apartment in order to fool her boyfriend, played by singer/band leader Art Jarrett into believing that she comes from a wealthy family. What she doesn’t realize is that it is Jarrett’s apartment, and Grable and her singing and dancing friends, including Stanley, entertain him.
Red jumped from the Commanders to play with Rudy Vallee, in addition to his movie career.
In 1935, Stanley married the beautiful Anita Garvin, an Earl Carroll’s Vanities and Ziegfeld Follies alumnus who made her Hollywood debut in 1924, and soon landed a co-starring role opposite Stan Laurel in the comedy short, The Sleuth. The two became friends, which earned her a place at Hal Roach studios, where she often played the shrewish wife or “other woman” in 11 Laurel and Hardy comedies, including Why Girls Love Sailors, as the Captain’s Wife; With Love and Hisses, as one of the ladies admired by Sergeant Banner; Sailors Beware! as jewel thief, Madame Ritz; The Battle of the Century, as the girl who slips and sits into a pie; From Soup to Nuts, as hostess Mrs. Culpepper; Their Purple Moment, as one of the girls “the Boys” pick-up at the Pink Pup; Blotto, as Mrs. Laurel; Be Big, as Mrs. Laurel; Swiss Miss, as the first potential mousetrap customer; and A Chump at Oxford, as hostess Mrs. VanDerVeer. She quit the soundstage in 1940, after A Chump at Oxford, to raise a family.
Red and Anita went on to operate a restaurant in Los Angeles together.
In 1938’s feature-length musical, Cocoanut Grove, Stanley played Dixie, a bandleader. The legendary Cocoanut Grove nightclub was the setting for this all-star Paramount musical. Fred MacMurray headed the cast as Johnny Prentice, a small-time bandleader who comes to the Grove for an all-important audition. The skimpy plot serves as an excuse for an unending stream of specialty numbers featuring Royal Hawaiian orchestra leader Harry Owens, comedian Ben Blue, the zany Yacht Club Boys (a WASP version of the Ritz Brothers), funny-noise specialist Rufe Davis and bandmaster Red Stanley. Nine new original songs were performed, none of which graduated to hit-parade status.
In 1941, he played in Blondie Goes Latin as an uncredited orchestra musician in conga band aboard a South American cruise ship, in Sing for Your Supper as an uncredited musician, and in Melody Lane as “Slim.”
In Melody Lane, Stanley played Slim, a supporting character, along with Leon Errol as McKenzie, behind the stars, a quartet called the Merry Macs, composed of the three McMichael brothers (the Macs) and Mary Lou Cook (the Merry). The Merry Macs are cast as a foursome of entertaining farm boys from Iowa who head for New York but get involved in some trouble when a radio sponsor interferes with the show. They find themselves in trouble when the radio sponsor finds himself accused of kidnapping a girl. Songs include “Septimus Winner,” “Peaceful Ends the Day,” “Cherokee Charlie,” “Let’s Go to Calicabu,” “Swing-a-Bye My Baby,” “Changeable Heart,” “If It’s a Dream Don’t Wake Me,” “Since the Farmer in the Dell,” “Caliacau,” and “Listen to the Mockingbird.” The Merry Macs were popular during World War II and did backup work for Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, working on such tunes as “Mairzydoats.”
In 1944, he made a series of “soundies” with his all-girl swing band, the Ding Dong Dollies: “Big Fat Mama,” “Big Man from the South,” and “Girls from Amarillo.” Soundies were short films, usually lasting about three minutes. They were produced in the 1940s for visual jukeboxes where customers paid a fee to view and hear popular songs of the day.
Stanley played a swing band trombonist in Raoul Walsh’s The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945), a fantasy comedy feature starring Jack Benny as the third trumpeter in a band who falls asleep and dreams he’s Athanael, an angel deputized to blow the Last Trumpet at exactly midnight on Earth.
In his twilight years, he enjoyed going with Anita to the many Laurel and Hardy fan club events she attended. He died on April 18, 1980, in Oxnard, CA