While it was Jules Verne who brought the concept of a “Time Machine” to the fore, it is Soundies that, in their own way, actually allows us to use one.
Merriel Abbott was born in 1883. A classically trained dancer, Abbott had established her own school of dance in Chicago before she turned thirty. By 1929, her dancers were appearing in the Broadway revue George White’s Scandals.
In 1933, Abbott assembled a dance troupe to appear in the Empire Room at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. They were featured until 1957, an amazing twenty-five year run! At the same time, Abbott had other ensembles performing around the country. From Miami to Manhattan to Los Angeles – and south of the border as well – the Merriel Abbott Dancers were a popular stage act for more than two decades.
“Yes, this was exactly the type of thing that I was doing, a regular part of our repertoire. In fact, I was doing the tennis number when we were on tour in Mexico.” So said Dorothy Kloss, a member of Abbott’s group in the 1940s. Another member of the troupe, Jayne McNulty, told me that, “the sports number you sent me, that was one of our big numbers at the Palmer House, also when we toured. It always got the audience going and we sometimes used it to close the first half of the show”
So, courtesy of the Panoram screen, travel back to Chicago during the fall of 1942. Take a cab to the Palmer House Hotel and ask for a seat in the Empire Room. That’s the Merriel Abbott Dancers on stage, accompanied by Buddy Franklin and his Orchestra (soundtrack only), and the routine called “Sports A La Mode.”