In 1928 Florenz Ziegfeld and Eddie Cantor teamed up to produce the Broadway musical, Whoopee. The show was based on The Nervous Wreck by Owen Davis, with a book by William Anthony McGuire, music by Walter Donaldson, and lyrics by Gus Kahn.
Whoopee opened on December 4, 1928 at the New Amsterdam Theater, and starred Eddie Cantor, Ruth Etting, Ethel Shutta, Paul Gregory, Frances Upton, Tamara Geva, Gladys Glad, Jack Rutherford, Albert Hackett and Buddy Ebsen. It ran for 379 performances from December 4, 1928 to November 23, 1929 and launched Eddie Cantor as a major star.
Florenz Ziegfeld closed the show in 1930, even though it was a big hit, in order to rush it into production as a movie. Ethel Shutta, Claire Dodd and Paul Gregory, joined Eddie Cantor in movie version, and Richard Day was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction in 1931. The film also featured a 15-year-old Betty Grable in a bit part as the the girl with the lariat.
Today Whoopee is remembered primarily for one song, Love Me or Leave Me, which was sung by Ruth Etting. The plot is almost an afterthought and involves a sheriff who loves a girl who loves an Indian, so she runs off with a hypochondriac and a big chase ensues. Ruth played an actress named Leslie Daw.
On February 14, 1979 Whoopee was revived at the Anta Theatre, on Broadway and ran for 204 performances.
Music by Walter Donaldson
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Book by William Anthony McGuire
Produced by Florenz Ziegfeld
Directed by William Anthony McGuire
Choreography by Seymour Felix and Tamara Geva
Costumes by John Harkrider
I’m Bringing a Red Red Rose
Until You Get Somebody Else
Love Me or Leave Me
Out Of The Dawn
That Certain Party
The Song Of The Setting Sun
Yes Sir, That’s My Baby
Caress Me Baby
Playbill from Whoopee, New Amsterdam Theatre, NYC, starring Eddie Cantor and Ruth Etting, week of September 2, 1929.
To find all references to Whoopee! on this site, click here!
Ruth Etting did not appear in the movie version of Whoopee, but if you’re interested in the film for other reasons, you can get Whoopee [VHS] at Amazon.com.
“If for no other reason, this is an amazing film because it was shot in Technicolor – in 1930! It’s primitive color, but very interesting at times and intriguing to view. Although the story and humor are very dated, Eddie Cantor is very funny at times playing the super hypochondriac.” – Craig Connell, June 26, 2009
Movie Song List
Automobile Horn Song
Come West, Little Girl, Come West
Ever Since the Movies Learned to Talk
A Girl Friend of a Boy Friend of Mine
Go Get ‘Im
Hallowe’en Whoopee Ball
Here’s to the Girl of My Heart
I Faw Down and Go Boom
I’ll Still Belong to You
I’m Bringing a Red, Red Rose
It’s a Beautiful Day Today
Love Me Or Leave Me
My Baby Just Cares for Me
My Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now
Song of the Setting Sun
Until You Get Somebody Else
Where the Sunset Meets the Sea (Gypsy Song)