Blossom Seeley and Bennie Fields in a Vitaphone short.
TCM recently showed the fascinating pre-Code Broadway Thru a Keyhole, with an amazing cast including poor Russ Columbo Texas Guinan, and Blossom Seeley. Bizarrely, Blossom was not given a musical number (one of Frances Williams’ could and should easily have been handed over to her).
Blossom (1891-1974) was a hard-boiled belter of the Sophie Tucker school. She made a splash on Broadway in Lew Fields’ The Hen-Pecks (1911), costarring a pre-Irene Vernon Castle—her ragtime number Toddling the Todalo became her first big hit. Blossom—with her third husband and onstage partner Benny Fields—went on to appear in Broadway revues and in vaudeville through the 1930s, topping the bill at the Palace time and again.
Her career inevitably faltered, though she never stopped working, even after Benny Fields’ death in 1959. A simply ghastly biopic, Somebody Loves Me, was foisted onto the public in 1952, inevitably starring Betty Hutton (Betty also committed similar cinematic assaults on Pearl White, Texas Guinan and Annie Oakley).
But thanks to the wonders of the YouTubes, we can enjoy Blossom herself. Here she is with Benny Fields in a 1928 sound short, belting out Hello, Bluebird. I just die when she stomps her feet. Also be sure to keep your eyes on The Music Boxes—Charles Bourne and Phil Ellis—the background pianists; those fellows seem to be having the time of their life:
And here’s Blossom 38 years later, on the Sullivan show in 1966, still in full voice at the age of 75: