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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cine Beaverhausen: The Outrageous Sophie Tucker

Right from the start, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker sweeps you up with its rare archival footage that shows what a groundbreaker and grand influence she was, and still is, in the world of entertainment. Where would Bette Midler and Mae West or even Judy Garland be without this fabulous icon?

The film, from Menemsha and Innovative Films, opens with her singing in the pre-Code film, the ironically titled Gay Love. Sophie's ribald humor and camp posturing immediately made her a major figure amongst her gay audience. The zaftig Tucker wasn't afraid to push the boundaries of taste, as is immediately seen when the film, ahead of its title credits, flashes the quote: "I believe in tit for tat. And if that's the case, someone owes me a lot of tat."

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker skillfully melds performance footage with talking heads (Barbara Walters, Michael Feinstein, Tony Bennett, Carol Channing), photographs, recordings and discussion by filmmakers Susan and Lloyd Ecker. Tucker's vaudevillian roots are explored as are her relationships with other show business greats.

Controversy is not skirted: Sophie Tucker's brief dalliance with blackface during her vaudeville days, her relationship with the Mob, her many marriages, her bisexuality, her penchant for gambling, her weight problem, her friendship with J. Edgar Hoover who loved to wear Sophe's hand-me-downs. But so is her feminist approach to women's sexuality and her genius ability to market herself (advertising everything from exercise machines to plus-sized clothes for women (ahead of its time)), as well as her signature handkerchief.

Tucker sang "Last of the Red Hot Mamas," and that became her moniker from the first motion picture talkie starring a woman (Tucker).

Now, at just over 90 minutes, this film is the very essence of infotainment, people! I learned so much while being thoroughly entertained from this film by the Eckers. Viva, La Sophe!

Favorite line: "My hair makes Marie Antoinette's look like a flat-top!"

My exclusive Q&A with the Eckers:

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker can be seen at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th St., NYC beginning Friday, July 24th.

For press reservations, interview requests, or more information, contact Richard Skipper Celebrates at or 845-365-0720

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