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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Babe Egan and the Hollywood Redheads at Berlin Wintergarten Theatre, 1929

 Babe Egan and the Hollywood Redheads did a year-long European tour in 1929, and performed at the Wintergarten in Berlin from August 1 through October 1, 1929. The day before the Redheads opened, they were required to appear at the theater to have their pictures taken and for a rehearsal. The theater manager and the house orchestra leader wanted to change the Redhead's act but couldn’t speak English well enough to explain to Babe what they wanted.  Babe was adamant that they leave her act alone and a loud argument ensued. Just in a nick of time, the girls’ dogs came into the theater and charmed the manager into submission. After opening night, their billing was changed from 3rd to 10th because they were such a hit.  While performing at the Wintergarten, the Redheads stayed at the Central Hotel, near the Zentralbahnhoff.

One of trombonist Fern Spaulding Jaros’s solos with Babe Egan and the Hollywood Redheads was “When Day is Done” and while in Berlin she had the thrill of performing it at the Wintergarten with the composer in the audience. The song, originally called “Madonna, Du Bist Sch├Âner als der Sonnenschein” (in English, “Madonna, you are more beautiful than the sunshine”) was written by the German composer Dr. Robert Katscher (also a dentist).  Dr. Katscher told Fern, “You play my song better than even Paul Whiteman’s soloist.”  Paul Whiteman’s orchestra made this tune famous in the United States with their recording on Victor (#35828) featuring cornet soloist Henry Busse.  B. G. De Sylva wrote an English lyric in 1916.  Katscher (1894-1942) was a Viennese Jewish composer and arranger, who eventually died in exile in Hollywood.  He also composed “The Wonder Bar” and co-composed with Cole Porter, the musical “You Never Know” (1938) (generally agreed to be a failure).

Here is the band's Berlin Wintergarten poster and a 1929 postcard showing the spacious stage of the where they performed. The Wintergarten Theatre opened in 1887 and was destroyed by Allied bombs in June 1944.—Jeannie Pool is writing a book on Babe Egan and the Hollywood Redheads and welcomes any information readers may have about the Berlin Wintergarten Theatre.