Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Larry and Trudy Leung: Cantonese Capers

"Cantonese Capers" — that's how the comedy song-and-dance duo Larry and Trudy Leung were billed when they toured the U.S. during 1950 in the vaudeville show "Stars on Parade". Earlier that year, the couple had appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. That performance, filmed during the early days of live television, lies at the heart of Long Story Short (2008), Christine Choy's documentary about actress Jodi Long and her parents Larry and Trudy. After tracking down a tape of the performance, Jodi screens it for her mother and father — more than 50 years after the event. It's a poignant occasion. Larry claims he doesn't remember any of it, yet mouths all the words of his act. Trudy is equally touched. "It's the first time I ever saw myself on stage... I never saw myself before." As her words sank in, I keenly realized the importance of remembrance and felt gratitude for those who've documented the pioneering Asian American performers of yesteryear.

Long Story Short can be watched or downloaded for a very modest price at Amazon Video on Demand. Check out the free preview which includes a clip from their Sullivan Show appearance. Highly recommended!

* A big thanks to Eddy for the reminder about this film.


YTSL said...

So... opposites attract? Or was all that difference just an act? ;b

Fang Shih-yu said...

Another fine posting, duriandave!

That these people made it to Sullivan is rather extraordinary, considering they were part of a touring vaudeville revue, and vaudeville was (more or less) on its last legs! (If only Ken Berry were around then, we would not be having this conversation, if you know what I mean! LMAO!)

duriandave said...

-- YTSL, I'm not quite sure what difference you're referring to (the photo?), but they did do a lot of playing around with stereotypes in their act.

-- Fang, Larry and Trudy were regulars at the Palace Theatre in NYC. They got their start at the China Doll, where Trudy was one of the chorus girls and Larry was emcee. They also worked the chop suey circuit in San Francisco (Forbidden City, et. al.), as well as USO shows in far-flung places like Nome, Alaska.

Regarding Ken Berry, I didn't recognize his name but remembered him immediately once I googled him and saw his face!

Fang Shih-yu said...

Thanks for the details on Larry and Trudy; the documentary is definitely worth looking for!

I recall seeing the one episode of The Brady Bunch (the "Kelly's Kids" pilot that didn't sell) where Berry played the guy who was "show business" in this old-fangled capacity; the concept CREAKED back when it first aired!

He seeemed like he was born "too late" for all he did on those variety programs in the '60s-'70s (including his own variety program). Beyond his dancing, he was bland as hell as an actor! (Plaintiff's exhibits: F-Troop, Mayberry RFD and Mama's Family!)

YTSL said...

Hi duriandave --

Was alluding to what I saw in the photo: more westernised vs more traditional, etc. From the looks of it, wouldn't have thought that they'd have been a married couple. :)

duriandave said...

-- Fang, there's nothing worse than being "born too late". Better to be born too soon. Then you'll be remembered as a pioneer! ;p

-- YTSL, Larry and Trudy often appeared in traditional Chinese outfits only to suddenly disrobe and reveal a western suit and dress beneath.

Speaking of appearances, would you suspect, from what little you've seen so far, that Trudy is in fact a Japanese American whose family was interned during WWII? That's just one of the interesting revelations in the documentary.

Diana said...

Trudy and Jack Soo. I wonder how many other performers were successful by changing to Chinese names at that time. I saw a documentary on Jack Soo last year called "You don't know Jack" which I would recommend.

Thanks for the heads up on Amazons Video on Demand. I am on that site regularly and somehow missed it.

duriandave said...

Hi Diana! I believe there were quite a few Asian American performers who adopted Chinese sounding names. Remember, those were the days when Chinese suddenly became the "good" Asians, Japanese became the "bad" Asians, and the rest were kind of invisible.

I missed the Jack Soo doc when it played here last year. Hope it shows up on Amazon!