Nearly bankrupt in 1934, 20th Century Fox finds B.O. relief from the pint-size Shirley Temple. The 5-year-old steals “Stand Up and Cheer!” from her co-star Warner Baxter, and headlines her own pics that year, “Little Miss Marker” and “Bright Eyes,” in which she sings “On the Good Ship Lollipop.”
In 1934, John Barrymore makes a screen test to bring his Hamlet to the movies. His memory, unfortunately, fails him and the project is aborted. In the future, he resorts to cue cards. Nonetheless, he turns in his greatest screen perf that year, playing a megalomaniac theater producer in “Twentieth Century.”
Frank Capra directs and produces the 1934 pic “It Happened One Night” that goes on to be Oscar’s first quintuple winner, nabbing all five top honors: picture, actor, actress, director and screenplay.
On Christmas Eve 1934, Lionel Barrymore turns in the first of his many radio perfs as Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” The annual show is so successful that Barrymore eventually makes a 78 RPM record of the classic.
At 17, Ella Fitzgerald makes her debut at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in November 1934 and goes on to win one of the venue’s first Amateur Nights. She sings “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” Her first-prize money: $25. The Apollo had only recently relocated to 125th Street and opened its doors for the first time to African-American customers.
Lillian Hellman scores with her first play, “The Children’s Hour,” which, among other things, deals frankly with lesbianism. Hellman’s drama opens Nov. 20, 1934, and runs 691 perfs on Broadway.
I n 1934, lawyer Charlie Feldman and Ad Schulberg, mother of Budd, make dramatic cuts into agent Myron Selznick’s monopoly (estimated at 90%) of top onscreen talent. Over the years, their Schulberg-Feldman Agency morphs into Famous Artists, Ashley Famous, International Famous Agency and, finally, ICM.
Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man” goes Hollywood in 1934 and will be spun off four more times. Likewise, his “The Maltese Falcon,” under various guises, makes frequent visits to the screen, including a 1931 version starring Ricardo Cortez and John Huston’s 1941 classic with Humphrey Bogart playing gumshoe Sam Spade.
Disney’s biggest star, Mickey Mouse, appears in the 1934 cartoon “Orphan’s Benefit,” which introduces a new sidekick from the barnyard. Donald Duck goes on to be the studio’s most successful cartoon character — after Mickey, that is.