Who is Georgie Jessel?

The City Paper, in a short writeup about the Quizzo Movie (Scroll down) said that I was “equal parts old-time toastmaster (think Georgie Jessel) and quick thinking wiseacre.” Which got me wondering: “Who the hell is Georgie Jessel?” Jessel was, according to Mike Wallace, a “showman extraordianry and a man about town in every town he’s ever been in.” (Watch terrific Mike Wallace interview with Jessel here, though he comes off as a bit of a curmudgeon.) He was an earlier vaudeville star, and was initially cast to star in the Jazz Singer, but turned down the role because Warner Brothers owed him money at the time.

He later became a very famous and sought after-dinner speaker. He also had a scandalous personal life. He dated many Hollywood starlets, and married movie star Norma Talmadge in 1934. (They divorced in 1939, and rumor has it that he later broke into her house and shot at the man she was dating at the time.) It was also in 1934 that introduced “The Gumm Sisters” to a crowd in Chicago. After the crowd laughed at their name, Jessel convinced them to change their name to the Garland Sisters. Shortly thereafter, one of those sisters changed her name from Frances to Judy. They discuss it in the above video.

The quizzo film airs tonight at the Painted Bride at 6:30 p.m., with an aftermovie quiz at the Plough and the Stars at around 8:30. Quizzo at the Khyber is cancelled for this week.

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