AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Whoopee!
Director: Thornton Freeland (Dir)
Release Date:   5 Oct 1930
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 30 Sep 1930
Duration (in mins):   85 or 90
Duration (in feet):   8,393
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Eddie Cantor (Henry Williams)  
    Ethel Shutta (Mary Custer)  
    Paul Gregory (Wanenis)  
    Eleanor Hunt (Sally Morgan)  
    John Rutherford (Sheriff Bob Wells)  
    Walter Law (Judd Morgan)  
    Spencer Charters (Jerome Underwood)  
    Albert Hackett (Chester Underwood)  
    Chief Caupolican (Black Eagle)  
    Lou-Scha-Enya (Matafay)  
    William H. Philbrick (Andy McNabb)  
    Marilyn Morgan (Harriett Underwood)  
    Dean Jagger (Deputy)  
    George Olsen   and his Orchestra
  Showgirls: Jeanne Morgan    
    Betty Grable    
    Virginia Bruce    
    Muriel Finley    
    Ernestine Mahoney    
    Christine Maple    
    Jane Keithley    
    Mary Ashcraft    
    Georgia Lerch    
    Betty Stockton    

Summary: Although Sally Morgan has long been in love with Wanenis, an Indian who lives near her father's ranch, her father has convinced her to become engaged to Sheriff Bob Wells while Wanenis is away being educated in the ways of the white man. Unwilling to go through with the marriage, Sally, who hopes to convince Wanenis to elope with her, prevails upon Henry Williams, a kind-hearted hypochondriac living on the ranch, to take her away in his ramshackle Ford. With her father and Wells in pursuit, Sally and Henry run out of gas, but steal fuel from a car belonging to Jerome Underwood, whose ranch they later go to for food. When Wells and his deputies arrive at the ranch, Henry, now working as the cook, disguises himself in blackface. Later he narrowly escapes the sheriff and takes refuge in an Indian reservation. Wanenis, believing that his race makes his love for Sally impossible, has abandoned white civilization, and Sally is about to be carried off by her father when Matafay, an Indian woman who is to marry Wanenis, forces Chief Black Eagle to reveal the truth, that he adopted Wanenis, who was the orphaned baby son of a white couple who died. Sally's father now consents to the marriage and Henry finally proposes to his devoted nurse, Mary Custer. 

Production Company: Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Thornton Freeland (Dir)
  H. B. Humberstone (Asst dir)
Producer: Florenz Ziegfeld (Pres)
  Samuel Goldwyn (Pres)
  Florenz Ziegfeld (Prod)
  Samuel Goldwyn (Prod)
Writer: William M. Conselman (Scr adpt)
Photography: Lee Garmes (Photog)
  Ray Rennahan (Photog)
  Gregg Toland (Photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
Film Editor: Stuart Heisler (Film ed)
Costumes: United Costumers, Inc. (Cost executed by)
  John Harkrider (Cost des)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus dir)
  George Olsen And His Music (Prod scored and played by)
Sound: Oscar Lagerstrom (Sd rec)
Dance: Busby Berkeley (Dances and ensembles staged by)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Makin' Whoopee!" "Stetson," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "A Girl Friend of a Boy Friend of Mine," "Cowboys" and "The Song of the Setting Sun," music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Gus Kahn; "I'll Still Belong to You," music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Edward Eliscu.
Composer: Nacio Herb Brown
  Walter Donaldson
  Edward Eliscu
  Gus Kahn
Source Text: Based on the play Whoopee , music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Gus Kahn, book by William Anthony McGuire (New York, 4 Dec 1928), which was based on the play The Nervous Wreck by Owen Davis (New York, 9 Oct 1923).
Authors: Walter Donaldson
  Owen Davis
  William Anthony McGuire
  Gus Kahn

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Samuel Goldwyn 1/9/1930 dd/mm/yyyy LP1584

Physical Properties: Sd: Movietone
  col: Technicolor

 
Genre: Musical comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Courtship
  Elopement
  Hypochondria
  Indians of North America
  Marriage--Forced by circumstances
  Racism
 
Subjects (Minor): Automobiles
  Cooks
  Foster parents
  Inns
  Pancakes, waffles, etc.
  Racial impersonation
  Ranchers
  Sheriffs

Note: The opening title card reads: "Florenz Ziegfeld and Samuel Goldwyn Present Eddie Cantor in ' Whoopee! ' A Musical Comedy of the Great Wide West Based on the Famous Stage Success. All Technicolor." The film ends after Cantor sings "My Baby Just Cares for Me" to "Mary Custer" (Ethel Shutta), then turns to the camera and says "That's All There Is." Cantor recreated his popular stage role, singing, among others, the hit title song, "Makin' Whoopee," which became one of his signature tunes. The song has been recorded many times since it was first introduced, often with added verses or slightly altered lyrics. At one point in the film, when Cantor's character, "Henry Williams," is preparing waffles, he briefly reprises the song, but changes the refrain to "I'm makin' waffles."
       In addition to Cantor, Shutta, Paul Gregory, Albert Hackett, Spencer Charters, Chief Caupolican and John "Jack" Rutherford recreated their stage roles for the film. Eleanor Hunt, who portrayed "Sally Morgan" in the film, also appeared in the Broadway show, but only as a dancer in the chorus. The Broadway play also was produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, and featured costumes by John Harkrider, who also designed the film's costumes. Although both the Broadway show and the film featured several songs, only "Makin' Whoopee" was used in both. The biggest hit song from the Broadway show was "Love Me or Leave," which was sung by Ruth Etting and became her signature tune, as well as the title of the 1955 biographical film about her life (see entry).
       Whoopee! included several lavish production numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley (1895--1976), among them "Stetson" and "The Song of the Setting Sun," which featured a parade of the showgirls known as "The Goldwyn Girls" dressed in lavish costumes in a Native American theme. Some of the showgirls ride horseback as they descend a set constructed in the shape of a mountain. Whoopee! marked Berkeley's first film and brought to the screen his signature style of lavish production numbers featuring large choruses of beautiful women dancing in precision. During many of the numbers, the dancers were shot from above so that their costumes and movements would create the cinematic kaleidoscopes that were his trademark.
       Whoopee! was shot in the two-strip Technicolor process. The Var reviewer called it "the finest job Technicolor has set forth to date," and although he and other critics generally praised the film, most compared it unfavorably to the Broadway original. Art director Richard Day received an Academy Award nomination for the film.
       According to a 2 Jul 1971 DV article, The Museum of Modern Art in New York had recently located a print of the film in a Czech film archive and would be working on a restoration and possible re-issue. According to the article, a print of the film had been kept in a Berlin archive, but when Russian troops took control of that section of the city in 1945, they took possession of the archive and subsequently transferred the original nitrate print onto safety stock using the Ferrania color process. As noted in 1977 news items, when the film was revived for a Los Angeles showing that year, the racial stereotypes, including Cantor's sequence in blackface, were criticized. A Jun 1977 LAT article stated that a new print of the film cost $15,000.
       For information on other films inspired by Owen Davis' play, please consult the entry for the 1944 Samuel Goldwyn production Up in Arms , directed by Elliott Nugent and starring Danny Kaye and Dinah Shore. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   2 Jul 1971.   
Exhibitors Herald-World   20 Sep 1930   p. 39.
Film Daily   5 Oct 1930.   p. 10.
Los Angeles Herald Express   8 Jun 1977.   
Los Angeles Times   12 Jun 1977.   
Life   17 Oct 1930   p. 20.
New York Times   1 Jun 1930   p. 4.
New York Times   6 Jul 1930   p. 4.
New York Times   29 Jul 1930   p. 3.
New York Times   1 Oct 1930   p. 26.
New Yorker   11 Oct 1930   pp. 75-76.
Variety   8 Oct 1930   p. 22.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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