I had the rare pleasure of seeing The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, a new documentary feature currently playing in select theaters. It opened the recent 2015 Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, and is a genuine "rags to riches" show business story that will inspire today's performers and certainly empower women of all ages, shapes and sizes. The film is directed by Academy Award nominated filmmaker William Gazecki, and written and produced by Susan and Lloyd Ecker. "The Last Of The Red-Hot Mamas" Sophie Tucker was known as the "female Al Jolson" and she paved the way for such icons as Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Midler, Cher, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, even Amy Schumer.
The Eckers have been working on this in-depth documentary for eight years including immersing themselves in Tucker's personal scrapbooks, interviewing numerous family, friends and show business personalities. Some of the on-camera interviews include Tony Bennett, Barbara Walters, Bruce Vilanch, Michael Feinstein, Carol Channing, narrated by David Hyde Pierce. Sophie Tucker was a pioneer, a woman ahead of her time as an entertainer, and a leader in Social Media. From 1906 through the beginning of television, her brash, bawdy style prevailed as a "star" attraction.
I spoke to the Eckers about their passion for getting Sophie's story on screen, and they plan both a Broadway musical and feature film about The Outrageous Sophie Tucker. Is Sophie still relevant today? "Sophie represented that strong personable female voice that you see reincarnated today in performers such as Lady Gaga and Amy Schumer," Lloyd Ecker explained. "Bette Midler started doing Sophie routines in her one-woman-shows which she still performs to this day, and Bette named her daughter Sophie. And Mae West was an early mentee of Mae West. Without Sophie there would not have been Mae West saying "Come up and see me sometime." She was also a mentor to the young Judy Garland. According to Susan Ecker, "Sophie was the Forrest Gump of the first half of the 1900's. She was close with U.S. Presidents, King George VI,young Queen Elizabeth, Charlie Chaplin, J.Edgar Hoover, Al Jolson, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, and every other notable of her era."
Was she a feminist? "Sophie definitely believed a woman should receive equal pay to a man," Lloyd Ecker stated. "When the suffragette movement came about, first she was against it, when it was in vogue, she was for it. Sophie Tucker fought for herself, created an environment and image, and rode the trends. But all she ever wanted was equal pay to a man."
She sang "Some of These Days" and "After You've Gone" and she interpreted sex and innuendo in a way no woman had before her. Even though she was overweight, she stated boldly, "This is me. I'm comfortable in my own skin." And if she were alive today, you can bet she'd be the Queen of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vines, Periscope and all forms of social media.
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker is an intriguing documentary feature that celebrated an original and lets us in on the creation of a Show Business Pioneer's life and struggles.