There had to be other Brother Acts from Vaudeville for the movie studios to mine. 20th Century Fox chief Darryl Zanuck found The Brothers Ritz.
The boys were born in the first decade of the 20th century in Newark, New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, the sons of a Jewish Austrian haberdasher whose surname was Joachim. How the name of “Ritz” cropped up is the subject of one of today’s Quiz questions.
The trio (a fourth brother, George, avoided show biz in favor of the garment business) was comprised of Al, Harry ( the most influential of the trio, usually the guy pictured in the middle) and Jimmy.
Below are the boys (from the left, Jimmy, Harry and Al) hamming it up with bandleader/trombonist Buddy Morrow.
What exactly did the Ritz Brothers do?
They were a comedy/song-and-dance act playing vaudeville houses and night clubs across the country soon after graduating from high school. There was precision dancing, tongue-twisting banter, goofy songs, ethnic humor (probably verboten today) and all sorts of physical schtick.
Their high energy routines pleased audiences and drew the attention of Zanuck and Fox, eager to find a duplicate of sorts for the Marx Brothers. The boys soon found themselves cast as specialty items in studio musicals. The zaniness often left critics cold but audiences eager to take minds off the Great Depression and World War II responded.
The Ritz Brothers made about 15 pictures with titles such as Hiya Chum (1936), Behind the Eight Ball (1942) and The Three Musketeers (1939). By the mid-Forties, they were out of movies, and spent the rest of their careers on tv and in supper clubs.
Al, the oldest brother, died in 1965; Jimmy passed in 1985; and Harry died the following year. The Ritz Brothers have stood the test of time reasonably well, with contemporary comedians citing one or more of the trio as strong influences.
Now on to our Ritz Brothers Quiz. Here we go:
1) Question: Which one of these Fox stars was unlikely to costar with The Ritz Brothers in any movie? a) Alice Faye; b) Sonja Henie; c) Don Ameche; or d) Tyrone Power.
2) Question: How did the Joachim brothers become The Ritz Brothers? a) Zanuck came up with the name to anglicize the act; b) the boys themselves saw the marquee name on the side of a laundry truck and decided to adopt it; c) a vaudeville manager came up with the monicker to add “class” to the act; d) none of the above.
3) Question: The Ritz Brothers, especially was cited as a professional inspiration for which of the following? a) Jerry Lewis; b) Mel Brooks; c) Sid Caesar; or d)Danny Kaye.
4) Question: Movie critics, who had largely dismissed Ritz Brothers movies, are positively re-evaluating the boys’ films. A) True; or b) False.
5) Question: If you click on YouTube to a 1937 clip from On The Avenue, you’ll see the Ritz Brothers in a parody of which one of the following? a) Alice Faye; b) Madeleine Carroll; c) Alan Mobray; or d) Dick Powell.