Red Hot Mama in Hollywood: Sophie Tucker and the Conversion to Motion Pictures
In 1937, Tucker agreed to return to Hollywood, and acted in two films, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry and Broadway Melody of 1938. While she served in supporting roles in these films, there was considerable press attention concerning her decision to appear in these films. Hollywood’s reliance on musicals, such as Broadway Melody, had grown as the medium expanded, evincing a considerable impact on both former vaudevillians and cinematic newcomers.
This paper will detail the larger discourse expressing the concerns of vaudevillians during the rise of Hollywood films, especially Tucker's role in bridging the transition from one medium to another during the 1930s. Films served as a way to preserve vaudevillian talent, while at the same time providing openings for new entertainers who had not gone through older, more traditional methods of achieving success in the business. As Tucker faced all of these conflicts, while trying to hold on to her personae as a “Red Hot Mama,” she is an important figure for understanding the eclipse of one of America’s greatest pastimes by another dominant form of entertainment.
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