Roman Scandals

No More LoveIn his book book Ginger, Loretta and Irene Who? (1976), George Eells calls Ruth Etting, The Box-Office Bait. Samuel Goldwyn used her enormous popularity at the time to entice people to see the movie Roman Scandals and gave her only a very small part and one song, No More Love written by Al Dubin and Harry Warren.

While her part may have been small, Roman Scandals marked Ruth Etting’s film debut, and was the highlight of her film career. She once again appeared with Eddie Cantor, her co-star in Broadway’s Whoopee, and her big number was a torch song she sang in a bathhouse full of nearly naked Goldwyn Girls. Look carefully, and you can spot Betty Grable, Paulette Goddard, and Lucille Ball.

Busby Berkeley Slave GirlsIn ‘Discovering Great Singers of Classic Pop,’ Roy Hemming and David Hajdu describe her debut, “Inevitably it was a torch song with which Etting made her movie debut, in Eddie Cantor’s ‘Roman Scandals’ {1933}, sobbing Warren and Dubin’s ‘No More Love’ in the movie’s famous Busby Berkeley-directed slave-market sequence {with dozens of chained chorines clothed only in long blond tresses.”

Roman Scandals is a bright musical comedy with Eddie Cantor as a wistful young man from Oklahoma, who daydreams his way back to the hey-day of ancient Rome and causes all kinds of trouble.  Chipper songs and grand production numbers by Busby Berkeley. Gloria Stuart who was nominated for an Oscar in 1997 for her role in Titanic, stars as Princess Sylvia and Billy Barty shows up as Little Eddie.

Leonard Maltin describes Roman Scandals as an “Old-fashioned, enjoyable musical vehicle for Cantor to romp through as dreamer who is transported back to ancient Rome. Full of funny gags and delightful songs. Big Busby Berkeley production numbers include young Lucille Ball.”

Roman Scandals (1933)

United Artists, USA,  Black and White, 92 minutes
Released December 14, 1933.

Eddie Cantor in Roman ScandalsFull Credits:
Producer:  Samuel Goldwyn
Director: Frank Tuttle
Screenwriters: William Anthony McGuire, George Oppenheimer, Arthur Sheekman, and Nat Perrin (based on a story by George S. Kaufman, Robert E. Sherwood)
Cinematographer and Director of Photography: Gregg Toland
Editor: Stuart Heisler
Music Director and Composer: Alfred Newman
Art Director: Richard Day
Costume Design: John Harkrider
Choreography: Busby Berkeley

Cast:
Eddie Cantor: Eddie
Ruth Etting: Olga
Gloria Stuart: Princess Sylvia
David Manners: Josephus
Verree Teasdale: Empress Agrippa
Edward Arnold: Emperor Valerius
Alan Mowbray: Majordomo
Jack Rutherford: Manius
Grace Poggi: Slave Dancer
Willard Robertson: Warren F. Cooper
Harry Holman: Mayor of West Rome
Lee Kohlmar: Storekeeper
Stanley Fields: Slave Auctioneer
Charles Wilson: Police Chief Pratt
Clarence Wilson: Buggs
Stanley Andrews: Official
Stanley Blystone: Cop
Harry Cording: Soldier
Lane Chandler: Soldier
Duke York: Soldier
William Wagner: Slave Buyer
Louise Carver: Lady Slave Bidder
Francis Ford: Citizen
Charles Arnt: Caius
Leo Willis: Torturer
Frank Hagney: Lucius Aide
Michael Mark: Assistant Cook
Richard Alexander: Guard
Paul Porcasi: Chef
John Ince: Senator
Jane Darwell: Beauty Salon Manager
Billy Barty: Little Eddie
Iris Schunn: Girl
Aileen Riggin: Slave Dancer
Mary Lange: Slave Girl
Vivian Keefer: Slave Girl
Barbara Pepper: Slave Girl
Lucille Ball: Slave Girl
Florence Wilson
Genevieve Irwin
Dolly Bell
Jane Hamilton
Gigi Parrish
Bonnie Bannon

Review by TV Guide

Of the six films Eddie Cantor made for Samuel Goldwyn, Roman Scandals was his fourth and second only to The Kid From Spain in popularity. When Goldwyn’s idea to adapt George Bernard Shaw’s “Androcles And The Lion” as a vehicle for Cantor proved too difficult, the producer hired Robert Sherwood and George S. Kaufman to fashion a story that would take Cantor to imperial Rome. Displeased with their draft, Goldwyn brought in Nat Perrin, George Oppenheimer, and Arthur Sheekman to add jokes, and William Anthony McGuire to get the whole thing into shape for shooting. This film turned out to be one of the best Cantor-Goldwyn associations. With humor, music, and more than a little female flesh, Roman Scandals is a sort of Wizard of Oz in that Cantor, a wacky delivery boy in West Rome, Oklahoma, goes into a dream sequence and imagines himself to be a slave in old Rome. His major job is official food taster to the evil emperor, Edward Arnold. The slim plot includes Cantor proving that Arnold is a fraud, a love story between Gloria Stuart and David Manners, and a chase (this time a chariot chase, a direct satirical shot at Ben Hur by the sequence’s director Ralph Cedar). In the end, Cantor wakes up and is back in the present. Making the story a dream was a mistake; the prolog and epilog were not needed. The picture is slapstick nonsense from the moment it goes to Rome and is verbally funny as well, although Cantor has a totally anachronistic “black face” scene that sticks out badly. Every penny of the then-huge million-dollar budget is on screen. Busby Berkeley, in his last choreographic job before going on to Warner Bros., staged one scene in which The Goldwyn Girls, including Lucille Ball, are totally nude except for long blonde wigs. Harry Warren and Al Dubin, who would later join Berkeley at Warner Bros. for a host of hits, wrote several tunes including: “No More Love” (sung by Ruth Etting, Goldwyn Girls, danced by Grace Poggi), “Build a Little Home” (sung by Cantor, Goldwyn Girls), “Keep Young and Beautiful” (sung by Cantor, Goldwyn Girls, Billy Barty), and “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day.” Warren and L. Wolfe Gilbert teamed to write “Put a Tax on Love” (sung by Cantor).

LucyNotes from The Lucille Ball Page

Roman Scandals was the first film Lucille Ball appeared in and she was determined to make her mark.

“When Eddie Cantor walked down the line to give each Goldwyn Girl the once-over, I made a special effort.  I remembered a trick I’d seen Dorothy Gish do at Belmost racetrack.  She and her sister Lillian were sitting in a box with two gentlemen when the Hattie Carnegie models were ushered into seats right behind them.  After a while, Lillian went off with the gentlemen.  Dorothy was just sitting there, tearing off little pieces of her bright red program.  Then she turned around, and I saw she had stuck them like measles all over her face.  Well, I thought this was about the funniest thing I’d ever seen.  So as Eddie Cantor started down the line, I tore up some little pieces of red crepe paper, wet them with my tongue, and stuck them all over my bare arms and chest and face.  When Mr. Cantor got to me, his jaw dropped, his big eyes popped, and then he roared with laughter.  He asked me my name.  He told everyone about ‘that Ball dame — she’s a riot.’  I was in heaven.” — Lucille Ball

David Manners and Gloria StuartFor more on Roman Scandals, check out the David Manners Web Site. David Manners played the male romantic lead, opposite Gloria Stuart, and the site offers some beautiful images of the two of them, plus a review of the plot.

Ruth Etting in publicity photo for Roman ScandalsMore publicity photos from Roman Scandals
Ruth Etting in a publicity shot
Ruth Etting reclining in a publicity shot
Ruth Etting headshot as Olga
No More Love sheet music
Keep Young and Beautiful sheet music

Roman Scandals [VHS]
Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Original recording reissued, NTSC
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Fox Home Entertainment
VHS Release Date: April 4, 2000
Run Time: 92 minutes
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5.0 stars
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,286 in Video

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