Manhattan Mystery: ‘Makers of Melody’

'Makers of Melody"
Ruth Tester and the mysterious Allan Gould sing “Manhattan” in “Makers of Melody.”


 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'
“Makers of Melody,” featuring Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, from 1929.

"Makers of Melody"  

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:

Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway, Page 127

Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway, Page 128

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.

image

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.”

filmdailyvolume55152newy_0554

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).

1930_0329_hollywood_filmograph

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?

Thanks, Eve!

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1929, Film, Hollywood, Music, Stage and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Manhattan Mystery: ‘Makers of Melody’

  1. Eve says:

    Allan Gould is my new Dead Boyfriend, I am obsessed with him.
    Isn’t he cute?
    Isn’t he sweet?
    He’s gentle and mentally nearly complete!

    My guess is that he had a nice little career in the chorus or second leads on Broadway, and took the name “Allan Gould” for contractual reasons when making these short films: maybe he had an exclusive contract with a Broadway producer and didn’t want to get sued by the unions.

    Thanks, Larry, for posting this! I can’t believe someone that talented just disappeared.

  2. Gary Martin says:

    He was the jimmy Thompson of his day and no doubt the prototype for all subsequent young wannabes.

  3. Gary Martin says:

    Thnaks for the link to Lorenz Hart. For some reason unkown to me he has mythic status in my mind. Really wonderful to see him …on his feet.

  4. Mary Mallory says:

    You could write Ron Hutchinson of the Vitaphone Project to see if the names of the shorts were changed for released. He’s all knowing about Vitaphone.

  5. No reference to him found in “The Pictorial History of the American Theater,” “The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen” or “The Pictorial History of the Talkies.” Pretty unusual to not find a person listed in at least one of these.

  6. aryedirect says:

    Seen sections of the Lorenz Hart Richard Rogers segment used in a documentary. For two non actors testing a new medium, they’re not at all bad. But of course Lorenz was no Teddy Hart.

  7. Benito says:

    Maybe he was the scion of a stuffy, wealthy family who opposed his theatrical and movie career, so he used another name and saved the show. Wait, that’s the plot for several Dick Powell movies.

  8. eve says:

    Another thought . . . . I wonder if Allan Gould was one of those talented chorus boys who labored for ten years in the second row or occasional bit parts, but never made it into the Daniel Blum books or newspaper reviews? Maybe Larry Hart, ummm, recognized his talent and put him in this short, then Gould eventually retired to open a dancing school in Iowa?

    Sad, but typical of The Show Business. I saw a “nameless” chorine take over the lead in Anything Goes on Broadway, and she was easily as brilliant as the star everyone had come to see.

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