Let's Sing Again (May 8, 1936)
Released on May 8, 1936: Young Bobby Breen runs away from an orphanage and joins a travelling carnival, and is discovered by his real father.
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Written by Daniel Jarrett and Don Swift.
The Actors: Bobby Breen (Billy Gordon), Henry Armetta (Joe Pasquale), George Houston (Leon Alba), Vivienne Osborne (Rosa Donelli), Grant Withers (Jim 'Diablo' Wilkins), Inez Courtney (Marge Wilkins), Lucien Littlefield (Superintendant Henry Perkins), Richard Carle (Carter), Clay Clement (Jackson), Ann Doran (Alice Alba), Spencer Charles (unknown), Lon McCallister (orphan), Lon Poff (unknown), Renee Whitney (unknown).
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I have no memories of eating any Italian foods as a youngster, but it is my favorite cuisine today. I often say with tongue firmly in cheek that I could put tomatoes, garlic and onion on chocolate cake and enjoy it. A proper meal always consisted of a piece of meat, potatoes of some sort, and a vegetable and or salad - and Dad always liked a slice of bread and butter with his meals, but I usually only had bread at breakfast, which was often peanut butter toast dipped into cold chocolate milk. I had five older sisters and one older brother who died when I was still very young. My older brother David was always very ill, and unable to walk or care for himself. I remember Dad saying once that it was suspected that when David was born the family wasn't getting the proper nutrition and Mom's lack of the right nutrients might have been what caused David's illness. With a large family and a small preacher's salary there were certainly plenty of places to budget the money, but Dad always made sure that we had meat, vegetables, potatoes and salads every day. We never had a lot of food, but we always had good food. But to the best of my memories, we never had Italian food. Dad's family was from Switzerland and Mom's was from Germany, and neither probably had any exposure to good Italian food. One of my great joys after leaving home was the melting pot of food from different nations and different peoples that I discovered. When I quit studying to become a preacher I married a young Greek girl and for a while we lived with her parents near Youngstown, Ohio. I still remember with fondness her mother's amazing Greek dishes. We went to a church in Youngstown that was predominantly made up of Italian families and we were exposed to great Italian foods as well. But my memories today are sparked by the wonderfully thick accent of Italian Henry Armetta, who plays the part of Joe Pasquale in this movie.
My first good job after leaving college was as a laborer in the U.S. Steel mill in nearby McDonald, Ohio. One of the men I worked with was Vince, an Italian immigrant. Vince was very old . . . well, at least to a 21 year old boy he seemed old. He lived and worked in Girard, Ohio, but when the small machine shop that he worked in closed, he got a job at the steel mill about the same time as I did. Why he kept working I'll never know. He must have been approaching 60 years old, and over the years he had bought several homes and was renting them out and earning a fine income. But he dug ditches and passed brick to the bricklayers all day long just like I did. He didn't drive a car, and I would swing by his house every morning and give him a ride to the steel mill. One day when I dropped him off at home after our shift he told me to turn off the car and come inside for a minute. He showed me two large wooden barrels in the basement where he made wine. He made one barrel of wine each year, and while one barrel held the freshly made wine, everyone drank from the second barrel, which contained last year's batch. He insisted that I accept a glass of wine to say 'thanks' for giving him a ride. He would pour a large water glass full of wine for each of us and we would go to the upstairs kitchen and sit at the table and chat as we drank. It was very strong wine, and very tasty after a long hot day in the steel mill.
As I listen to Joe Pasquale in this movie talk, I fondly remember Vince. I am so very fortunate that I was able to live much of my life in the industrial parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania where untold millions of Europeans and African Americans settled many years ago, creating the melting pot of diversity that has enriched America in amazing ways.
Bobby Breen singing his lullaby
Canadian singing sensation Bobby Breen
George Houston and Ann Doran
George Houston and Inez Courtney
Henry Armetta and Vivienne Osborne
Henry Armetta sings at the carnival
Henry Armetta in 1936
Inez Courtney and Grant Withers
Richard Carle and Henry Armetta