The Unfamous of Hollywood — Sally Rand — A Fan Made Her Famous (1934) 🇺🇸
Hollywood has opened its ardent arms to a new Sensation — Sally Rand, beauteous blond exponent of the fan dance whose nude terpsichory, save for a protective pair of feather fans, recently got her into plenty of legal difficulties in Chicago, New York and other key cities.
by Irene Thirer
Where has she been all this time? The cinema city scouts want to know. Sally’ll tell them right enough: Hollywood!
The Paramount film folks who’ve just signed the little gal to a long-term contract which, according to report, entitles her to $5,000 a week, wouldn’t even consider her talents back in 1924 and 1925 when she was a Mack Sennett bathing beauty. It was the great director Cecil B. DeMille who eventually saw something in Sally. He put her under contract in his film stock company, and you may have seen her in “The Golden Bed,” “Braveheart,” “The King of Kings.” “The Fighting Eagle,” “The Night of Love,” and other silents.
In 1927, Sally Rand was named a WAMPAS baby star. which simply didn’t mean a thing. She had by this time quit the DeMille banner, and just couldn’t get her big chance in pictures — despite the fact that she’s exceptionally pretty and exceedingly talented. She loves swimming and drawing. She eats potatoes galore and doesn’t get fat. Weighs 115 pounds; is just over five feet tall.
Now that she has been “discovered” on account of her court battles — sentences commuted from a year in prison and $200 fine to ten days in the House of Correction and $100 fine for indecent exposure — she says she’s going to give up dancing forever. Let Sally speak for herself:
“I’m placing my faith in the future now on my ability to emote a bit the cameras. I know I’m going to have a difficult time convincing them out there that I have a single acting bone in my body. All I am going to hear is ‘fan dance.’ But, from here on, I want to carry on with acting as my principal qualification.”
Before she spoke of her new career (which really is a renewal of an old career) Sally had talked of her fan dance in no uncomplimentary terms. “My act,” said she. “has class. It’s art with a big A. That’s the difference between me and those cooch dancers in burlesque.” And she said of the “indecent exposure”: “I am not naked. I never was naked, and I would not get naked in front of anyone but my mother or my own mirror.” Meaning, of course, that the fans were all-concealing until the very last step of her dance when she stood in statue fashion, her lovely form revealed in entirety to theater patrons.
Fan dancing wasn’t Sally’s first venture in displaying her pulchritude. She didn’t get much publicity in December, 1932, when she appeared as Lady Godiva at Chicago’s Annual Artists Ball. At this affair she did not even carry fans; wore merely a blond wig with hair falling below her knees. Nobody cared much: not even the big, bad policemen. So, Sally didn’t get her movie contract until late in 1933 after the fan dancing episode which started at Chicago’s World Fair in the Streets of Paris peep show. During this adventurous episode of her life, the new-found filmster was not only arrested for indecent exposure but was brought to court for biting her night-club manager, Sam Balkin. She told the judge:
“It was an unladylike thing to do but I had to defend myself.”
Also, during the Chicago Fair, Sally again made the news pages. She fell into the Chicago River, while traveling on a speed boat from the Fair to the night club where she worked. And, back in 1929, Fightin’ Sal and her brother Hal got into trouble with Jack Haskell, dance director for Arthur Hammerstein’s “Luana.” It seems that Haskell fired Sal and Hal, ingénue and chorus boy respectively, in the show. Hal said Haskell took a poke at Sally, so he took one at Jack. Everybody went to court. And eventually all walked out of the courtroom arm in arm.
It was a tough road for our Sally, you see. Rocky — often poverty stricken. And she claims to have studied philosophy and ethics and art — at Columbia University and the New York Art Institute. Which is spiffy training, you’ll admit. She’s still in her twenties — this muchly publicized damsel who was born in Winchester, Kentucky. Movies, vaudeville with Gus Edwards’ troupe, cafe work for Lew Leslie, pictures for Sennett, Roach, Christie, DeMille, Wampas stardom, more vaudeville, chorus work, dramatic acting with DeWolf Hopper, fan dancing — to earn a great deal of money, to help her in “a carefully planned effort toward dramatic success.” And now — Paramount contract. You’ll see her first in Bolero with George Raft and Carole Lombard. Then — well, here’s hoping Sally’ll sally forth to success.
Source: New Movie Magazine, February 1934
This article is part of our Unfamous of Hollywood series: Gilmor Brown, Natalie Bucknell, Bebe Daniels & Pauline Gallagher, Howard Dietz, Elmer Dyer, George Hurrell, Billy Hill, Sally Rand, Murray Spivack, George E. Stone
Source: Motion Picture Daily, February 1934