Lincoln’s Comedian: Chic Sale

Topics: Death, Film, Entertainment Pages: 2 (560 words) Published: December 16, 2012
For those of you who have been enjoying my posts about my grandmother Mitzi Cummings’ incredible beauty, here’s a hilarious, decidedly unglamorous photo of her with Charles Partlow Sale, aka ‘Chic Sale’, once “the nation’s foremost comedian” before his sudden death at just 51 of lobar pneumonia in 1936.

In this photo, Mitzi the Variety and Photoplay writer of Hollywood reportage, is clearly having a great time yukking it up in costume with Sale, who is holding a photo of himself as Lincoln from his short film, The Tribute (1935), an uncharacteristically somber movie about the president’s dismay at the listless response to his Gettysburg Address. In true Hollywood style, Lincoln meets a dying and blind Union soldier who attests to how inspiring the speech was. Although I haven’t seen the film, my money is on the soldier dying in the president’s arms.

Though the Lincoln film was not his usual material (and Sale was no Daniel Day Lewis), Sale was enormously talented and was touted as the nation’s funniest man during his hugely successful vaudeville career, including appearances with the Ziegfeld Follies and the Shubert Winter Garden shows. He then parlayed his fame into an instantly profitable film career in 1931. Sale’s premature death, just five years after his move into the motion picture business, shocked the entertainment industry and America.

Chic Sale’s genius was his ability to impersonate anyone from Mae West to “agricultural types” and create “irresistible nostalgia”, as mentioned in articles from the time. In fact, his mimicry even fooled seasoned entertainment journalists, as George Ross reported in his “In New York” column from December 9, 1935 about meeting Sale for the first time: “He gave me a shock when he entered because the wrinkled, cracker barrel philosopher I expected turned out to be a tall, youthful looking, clean-shaven man without even a corn cob between his lips”.

Born in Huron, South Dakota on August 25, 1885 Sale retained a...
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