When was the last time you watched a silent film? Try this entertaining, 1926 short film, The Nickel-Hopper starring adorable Mabel Normand. It’s about a young girl who earns her living as a “taxi dancer”. During the Jazz Age, dance halls were preferable over ballrooms and were popular for men because it didn’t matter your height or your looks, you could rent a taxi dancer for ten cents if she had an open slot on her dance card. The girls usually kept half the amount, hence the name “nickel-hoppers”.
The research continues exploring the year 1927 in America, and this silent film provided a wealth of insight into the culture. The character Paddy is twirled about on the dance floor by a dozen men during the course of the evening. There’s always someone who wants to take her home. It’s a simple plot–poor girl tries to catch a man who will deliver her from poverty and rag-doll job and into respectability. Oliver Hardy plays the enthusiastic drummer at the dance hall, and a very young Boris Karloff plays the predator who wants to take her home. She outwits him and charms, Jessop, the handsome, rich bachelor.
Barbara Stanwyck is a nickel-hopper in the film, Ten Cents a Dance.
Most taxi dancers were girls looking to make money. I’m thinking about my character Sally, my young Barbara Stanwyck inspiration, who will manipulate her aunt into renting an empty room in Jerome, Arizona so Sally can turn it into a dance hall. Of course, that means music. Irving Berlin, Ira and George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Gene Austin–I love their songs.
I will certainly place the current hits of the time into the second novel, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol. These songs are a part of American pop-culture, and accentuate the historical climate perfectly.
Here is another Berlin classic, “How Deep is the Ocean”. Released in 1932, it shows the popular genre of the ballad. Billie Holliday’s version is my favorite. Anyone else appreciate the romantic, sweet music of the 1920s?
Silly love songs. Where did they go?