Sophie Tucker (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

January 09, 2022

An international favorite, Sophie Tucker is a woman without a country, or even a real name. Born on a ship at sea after her parents had fled their home in Odessa, Russia, during a time of political unrest, Sophie spent her early years working in her father’s restaurant in Hartford, Connecticut.

Her father had assumed the name of Abuza in order to escape from Russia and the family maintained that name in America. While she worked in the restaurant, her voice training consisted of calling out orders to her mother in the kitchen.

Discovered in Restaurant

One day the Howard Brothers, of vaudeville fame, came into the restaurant and jokingly told Sophie that she had a wonderful voice. She immediately started out for New York to become famous.

Her first job was in the old German Village Cafe and she made fifteen dollars a week and a bonus in the form of pennies thrown by customers. Next, she worked at Tony Pastor’s. Then she got a chance in vaudeville and, while doing her act in Holyoke, Mass., she was seen by Florenz Ziegfeld (The Great Ziegfeld), who signed her for one of his early Follies.

Sophie was a great hit, but the principals didn’t like her stealing the show, so, to keep peace, Ziegfeld had to let her go. Next she was featured in the musical show “Louisiana Lou.”

Headlined in Vaudeville

She went back to vaudeville and was headlined for several years. In 1926 she made a short subject called “Honky Tonk,” but Sophie didn’t like herself in pictures. At that time she began the English and Continental tours which have endeared her to the people of those nations.

In London last year she organized and directed the American Stage and Screen Tribute to the King George V National Memorial Fund, which netted more than $20,000 for the charity.

Among the Hollywood celebrities who took part in the performance were Marlene DietrichDouglas Fairbanks, Jr.Michael BartlettNoah BeeryJune ClydeBebe DanielsBen LyonKay FrancisAnn HardingLou HoltzJune KnightHarry LangdonEdward G. Robinson and Sophie herself.

From the Lord Mayor of London she received a gold cigarette case, duly inscribed, as a token of appreciation from the English people for her generous efforts in behalf of their favorite charity.

Best “Stylish Stout”

On the Continent as well as in America, Miss Tucker is known as one of the most stylish women. She is called by fashion experts the “best dressed stylish stout,” and takes great pride in being perfectly groomed.

Following “Melody” she was groomed for “straight” roles at M-G-M as the executives had great faith in her dramatic ability.

Sophie knows nearly everyone in show business and is admired by all of them. She has a home in Hartford which is occupied by a brother and his family. The remainder of her family consists of another brother, a sister, a son, Bert, and a daughter-in-law.

In Cincinnati with the show, a woman brought her son to ask Sophie for a job as piano player. The boy was talented but could not secure employment because of his youth. Sophie advised the mother to bring him back in two years. The boy was Harry Richman.

Her first important role at M-G-M was in Broadway Melody of 1938, followed by “Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry.”

Source: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937