“The Outrageous Sophie Tucker”
The Vaudeville Super Star
Sophie Tucker was an icon who ruled the Flapper era. She came before all the feisty broads that followed—Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Midler, Madonna and Lady Gaga. She was the first woman to infatuate her audiences with a bold, bawdy and brassy style unlike any other previous performer. Her nickname was “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas”. Directors Susan and Lloyd Ecker take us on their seven-year journey retracing Tucker’s 60-year show business career.
Sophie Tucker was one the World’s most popular and successful entertainers for the first half of the 20 Century. She had a wonderful range of comic and risqué songs and was one of the first women in show business. She was literally larger than life defying the norm of other females treading the boards as when she started out as she was in her words ‘fat, ugly, too old’ as well as a married Jewish lady to boot. However, in her career spanning some five decades she reveled in her differences, especially her size, and made it an integral part of her act.
Sophie Tucker was camp personified in every sense of the word. She was flamboyant and often wore ridiculous costumes which were really much more about getting noticed than trying to flatter her matronly figure. She was mentor to the likes of young Judy Garland, a best friend to stars like Frank Sinatra, and even at the end of her career she was adored by the new boys on the block in the 60’s i.e. The Beatles, and she really earned the title ‘The Last of The Red Hot Mamas’.
I so wanted to love this film. I can still remember my parents gong to every show Tucker when she performed in New Orleans. Unfortunately the film falls a bit short just as two Broadway musicals did and closed before they ever opened. What happened with this film is that the Eckers use too much of the film to give their own take on Tucker even though they never met her. But even with that it is very hard not to love Sophie Tucker and to see just why she became the star that she was.
Sophie Tucker worked her way through vaudeville, the first talking motion pictures, and eventually television. She inspired stars like Better Midler, and Judy Garland, and may be one of the most important names in jazz and blues, that you’ve never heard of. Born in an Orthodox Jewish family, Sophie wasn’t what you would expect for a star. She wasn’t exactly beautiful, but her voice, attitude, and humor, were enough to pack the house. This documentary looks at Sophie’s early years, when she was finally able to become a star.
Through archival footage, including many interviews with Tucker, fans are treated to her amazing voice, as well as an insight into Tucker’s impressive business savvy. In our world of social media, it’s unthinkable that a celebrity isn’t in the public eye at all times. Although it would be decades before a star could tweet their every movement, yet Tucker was constantly promoting herself and knew just how to do so. The stories of her selling books, advertising her own shows on the street, and making sure that she remained in contact with every person she met, is amazing viewing. Her talent is great but the way she sold herself is truly amazing.