So, these two Jewish cats, Joe Sultzer and Charlie Marks, walk into a printer’s shop; or perhaps it was Sultzer’s brother … there are a couple of variations of the story. It is sometime in the late 189Os and the team of Sultzer and Marks are working the vaudeville stage, not making huge waves, but popular with audiences. In the printer’s shop they find a set of abandoned business cards for a team called Smith and Dale. That act had either changed its name or broken up, and the cards were available for a song. (Or perhaps a joke.)
Sultzer and Marks thus became the (ultimately) famed team Smith & Dale, two comedians who spent more than seventy years together on stage: The Catskills, The Palace in New York City, London’s Palladium, Hollywood shorts and features, and early television … all welcomed the two.
Smith and Dale’s gentle humor played upon the stereotypes of middle class Jews, with puns, wordplay, verbal misunderstandings and rapid-fire dialogue a key to the routine. Those of you who are familiar with Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys have seen Smith and Dale, if re-imagined through the eyes of play write Simon.
By the 1940s, Smith and Dale’s were still popular on stage, but their style of humor was clearly of a much earlier period. They made three Soundies in 1941, rare shorts in that were filmed and recorded simultaneously.
Funny? Well, as I say, of a different era. But quaint, charming and delightful? Definitely so.