Among all of the Soundies that feature “eccentric” performers from the vaudeville and variety stage, there is only one that spotlights a contortionist. But for this subject, producer Benny (B. K.) Blake brought in one of the best, Cynda Glenn.
Ms. Glenn began performing in the 1920s, sharing an routine that, in part, was not much different than what we see here. Glenn spent much of the 1920s in Europe. Billed as Glenn Ellyn, probably her birth name, she was a popular performer who could be seen on the variety stage in London and Paris, including featured spots in the Follies Bergère.
Glenn suffered a broken back in the early 1930s. Years of rest, recuperation and what we now call physical therapy allowed her to return to entertaining. When she re-emerged in 1936, the former Glenn Ellyn changed her name to Cynda Glenn and began a twenty-year run during which she was rarely out of the limelight. Described in the trades as a “versatile firecracker” and “multi-talented performer,” Glenn combined comedy, song, dance, contortion and mimicry (“She might mock a café society type, or French lady, or film star,” notes a 1939 review), along with “roughhouse piano playing.” While Glenn spent significant parts of her career in Europe, but she also starred in US theater productions and Broadway revues. She toured for the USO during the war, performing for soldiers in Rome and Asia.
The source of the music we hear is unknown. It is almost certainly pre-recorded, and the close sync with Glenn’s routine suggests that she might have brought the music with her to the sideline session. While Glenn made the transition to early television, there are no surviving kinescopes of any of her appearances, so this Soundie remains the only evidence of what was just part of her stage repertoire. A tip of the Dodger cap to Soundies for preserving the memory of a performer who is virtually unknown today, but a popular entertainer back in the 1930s and ‘40s