“Burlesque In Harlem,” Film In New York, 1949 (full video)

4610340_l3Burlesque in Harlem (also released as Rock & Roll Burlesque and A French Peep Show) is a 1949 revue film directed by William D. Alexander (also producer of Ingagi and Souls of Sin) that features a cast of singers, dancers and comedians who were prominent on the so-called “chitlin’ circuit” of vaudeville theaters and nightclubs that exclusively presented African American talent.

The plotless film is hosted by Dick Barrow, who sings “Juice Head Baby”, and the main headliner is the comedian Pigmeat Markham, who performs a sketch called The Love Making Bureau.

Other performers in the cast include the dancer Gertrude “Baby” Banks, the singers Doctor Jo Jo Adams and Hucklebuck Jones, the striptease contortionist Tarza Young, and the tap dance duo Slip and Slide.

The master of ceremonies, Dick Barrow, invites the audience to a special “bronze burlesque,” which consists of a series of performances from strip-tease dancers, burlesque singers and the club comedians. The dance duo Slip and Slide does a soft-shoe routine. There is also a comedy sketch by Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham involving a “love-making bureau”.

The remaining cast included:

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  • Vivian Harris
  • Dick Barrow Master of ceremonies
  • Doctor Jo Jo Adams
  • Mabel Hunter
  • Gertrude “Baby” Banks
  • Luella Owens
  • Princess D’Orsey
  • Gloria Howard “Atomic Bomb”
  • Slip and Slide
  • Tarza Young
  • The Betty Taylor Taylorettes
  • Olive Sayles
  • Maria Rout
  • Adella Gross
  • Ezella Lester
  • Marion L. Greene
  • Dorothy McCarty
  • Fannie Thornton
  • Griffen Trixie Terry
  • Rose Marie Foster
  • Gwendolyn Shaklett

Here’s the video:

The film was reissued in the 1950s as Rock & Roll Burlesque, despite containing nothing resembling a conventional definition of rock and roll music.

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"Dr. Harry Delany is a renowned Harlem born and raised surgeon, the son of the great jurist and civil rights leader, Hubert Delany...." This monthly post is made in partnership with Harlem Cultural Archives.

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