Ruth Tester and the mysterious Allan Gould sing “Manhattan” in “Makers of Melody.”
The mysterious Allan Gould with Inez Courtney in “The Girl Friend.”
We have the illustrious Eve Golden to thank for this mystery. The other day, Eve forwarded me a link to the YouTube clip “Makers of Melody,” a 1929 short subject featuring Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart talking about how they wrote their Broadway tunes.
Stephen Holden of the New York Times described the film in 1991:
Like many of the other shows in the series, which is beginning its 21st year, the program offered some fascinating bits of esoterica. Somehow, Mr. Levine had dug up a bizarre 1929 two-reel film, “Makers of Melody,” in which Rodgers and Hart appeared as themselves horsing around like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and gleaning ideas for songs from their absurd, scripted banter.
That’s a pretty harsh and unfair assessment. Granted, “Makers of Melody” may seem a bit stiff compared to the exploding hardware of the recent 3-D opus “Gravity,” but taken in the context of early talkies, it does provide an interesting view of performance practices as they were in 1929.
“Makers of Melody,” featuring Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, from 1929.
Eve asked (as only Eve can) who is Allan Gould? It’s a simple question with a difficult answer. The credits list him singing “Manhattan” with Ruth Tester and “The Girl Friend” with Inez Courtney.
What’s not apparent is that these credits – and later references to them – are (almost) the only place in the world where the name “Allan Gould” appears.
A search of IBDB (the Internet Broadway Database) shows that every other cast member has appeared on Broadway.
By 1929, Gould’s partner in “Manhattan,” Ruth Tester (d. 1993), for example, had already appeared in “Lollipop,” Vincent Youmans/Zelda Sears (1924); “A Lucky Break,” Sears (1925); and “The Ramblers,” Kalmar and Ruby with Guy Bolton (1927).
His partner in “The Girl Friend,” Inez Courtney (d. 1975), had appeared in seven shows by 1929, including “The Little Whopper,” Rudolf Friml/Otto Harbach (1919); “The Wild Rose,” Rudolf Friml/Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II (1926) and “The Good News,” Ray Henderson/B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown with Laurence Schwab (1927).
As for Mr. Gould, IBDB has nothing.
Gould is merely mentioned in passing in “A Ship Without a Sail,” Gary Marmorstein’s 2012 book on Hart, but we have a description of the mysterious movie in “Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway” (1995) by Frederick Nolan:
Rather amusingly, “Hollywood on the Hudson” (2008) by Richard Koszarski, describes the cast as “fixtures of the American musical theater of the 1920s,” raising the question of whether he ever checked Gould’s credits.
It’s clear from Gould’s performance that he’s an experienced actor and presumably a veteran of the Broadway stage – except that we can’t find him. And gosh how we can’t find him. The list of sources that do not list Allan Gould is discouraging:
Nothing on IMDB except “Makers of Melody.”
Nothing in IBDB.
Nothing in the New York Times.
Nothing in the Los Angeles Times.
Nothing in fultonhistory.com, a vast repository of online New York newspapers.
Nothing in the Newspaper Archives.
Now I was about to give up and figure that Allan Gould was a stage name, when I remembered one of the sources Mary Mallory uses for research: lantern.mediahist.org.
And voila, we find Allan Gould. Or at least an Allan Gould. In exactly one Vitaphone short:
Film Daily for March 5, 1930, lists him in the Vitaphone short “Cafe in Algiers.”
Here we find Allan Gould in the cast of the Vitaphone Varieties production titled “Cafe in Algiers,” which was retitled “Desert Thrills,” from Hollywood Filmograph, March 29, 1930. (It’s also on Archive.org).
Which appears to be a dead end. Neither “Desert Thrills” nor “Cafe in Algiers” is listed in IMDB.
So was Allan Gould a stage name? A one- (or two-) hit wonder?