The Big Benefit
Director: Murray Roth

Director: Lynn Shores

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Cowboy & the Girl Ray Mayer opens The Cowboy & the Girl (1928) at his piano, in cowboy hat & costume, dark lipstick & a smile, playing a cowboy ragtime number sweet as can be. He has an inherently comedic manner that makes him fun to watch, but that playing is even better, he's just fantastic.

Mayer stands to introduce Edith Evans, whom he declares to have been a member of many an opera company. "In fact she'd be part of the Metropolitan Opera Company this season if they hadn't decided not to use lady ushers."

In walks Edith in a fur coat to perform a flapper number, "Mine All Mine," a composition by Sam H. Stept, Herman Ruby, & Rubey Cowan:

"All the other girls get jealous/ When we strut down the line/ Vo dee oh do, I want you to know/ He's mine all mine..."

The song's packed with charm, & Edith with sexiness, in contrast to countrified Ray who even pretends to be chewing tobakky.

The Cowboy & the GirlWhen the song finishes on a comedic verse, Ray stands again, as he wants to let us know Edith's performing under the handicap of not having her regular stage costume, then makes fun of her fur coat.

She leaves the stage in a huff, then Ray promises to perform for us "Our Cow Wouldn't Give Milk So We Sold Him," which of course isn't the tune's title at all.

He sings the comic lyrics to a vaudevillian ragtime number composed by J. Russel Robinson, Charles Tobias & Coleman Goetz:

"Each invention brings a change/ Something new & something strange/ But the strangest puzzles are the girls of nowadays/ They way they're dressed & the things they do/ It keeps me guessin' I'm tellin' you/ There's a trick to pickin' a chick chick chicken today..."

Edith Evans returns without the fur, in a cute little flapper girl's charleston outfit. Ray claims the song she's about to sing is "Men Get Pearls from Oysters, but Women Get Diamonds from Nuts." She sings instead a a then-recent foxtrot diddy called "Sing Me A Baby Song" by Walter Donaldson & Gus Kahn:

"Don't say a word, just hold me tight/ Cuddle up closer it's lonesome tonight/ Just sing me a little baby song..." Throughout the song, Ray is doing some very funny shtick while playing his piano. It all ends with both performers bowing to the camera.

When East Meets West The Cowboy and the Girl was included on an extras disc for a special re-release of The Jazz Singer. This fun vaudeville duo also appeared together in When East Meets West (1928) & then in a featurette featuring several acts, top billing to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

This wasThe Big Benefit (1933), in which child actors also appear, playing the various performers when they were kids. Ray Mayer & Edith Evans perform "Start Crooning a Tune."

The structure When East Meets West is pretty much the same as in The Cowboy & the Girl, filmed on the same set with only the vase of flowers changed to a bigger arrangement; the two Vitaphone shorts appear to have been filmed the same day.

It features another set of four tunes with plenty of humor. Ray again goes first with "Henry's Made a Lady out of Lizzie," then Edith with "It All Belongs to Me," then Ray for "Sleep, Little One, Sleep" & lastly Edith "Side by Side."

The duo were sometimes just billed as "Evans & Mayer," their act being one of contrasts, her sophisticated East coast image, his western cowboy image. Though the sum total of their act on film doesn't add up to a half hour, they were in fact extremely popular in their day, & made royalties from sheet music & player piano rolls brightly stamped with their names, besides recording 78 lacquer discs for the Brunswick label.

They weren't married when they made the two 1928 films preserving a good record of their act. But by the time they did their 1933 film, they were wed. A couple years later Ray set out on his own as a character actor, a bit of Broadway, a bit more in B cowboy films, until his death in 1948, but Edith seems to have retired from the stage after marrying her partner.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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