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Behind the Burly Q- The Story of Burlesque in America

4.7 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Burlesque was one of America's most popular forms of live entertainment in the first half of the 20th century. Gaudy, bawdy and spectacular, the shows entertained thousands of paying customers every night of the week. And yet the legacy of burlesque is often vilified and misunderstood, and left out of the history books. By telling the intimate and surprising stories from its golden age through the women (and men!) who lived it, Behind the Burly Q reveals the true story of burlesque, even as it experiences a new renaissance.

DVD BONUS FEATURES INCLUDE: Three Featurettes:
- The Reunion
- Memorabilia & Costumes
- Behind the Scenes
Bonus Interviews
Burlesque Timeline
Photo Gallery
Original Theatrical Trailer

Closed Captions. Color & b/w

Review

Leslie Zemeckis has preserved for us a lively, lovely corner of American life. --Richard Schickel, Film Critic & Historian

Charming...a delight! It's great that Zemickis immortalized these women. --Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

A privileged front-row seat to the history of burlesque! Glorious ladies in their heyday...their long-ago stripteases still pack a sensual, sassy, what-the-hell punch, while juicy anecdotes run from raunchy to touching to funny to flat-out incredible. --Ronnie Scheib, Variety

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Alan Alda, Dixie Evans, Tempest Storm, Margie Hart, Kitty West
  • Directors: Leslie Zemeckis
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: First Run Features
  • DVD Release Date: April 12, 2011
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004I45MUC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,510 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alan W. Petrucelli on March 30, 2011
Format: DVD
Behind the Burly Q (First Run Features) is quite simply the best and most complete history of America's lost art form. Burlesque, as wonderfully explained here, was not just a matter of T&A, but of glamour, comics, style, wit, a soupcon of raunch and heavy dose of showmanship. Live entertainment in general is eroding away, but the first modern victim, Burlesque, was lost about 50 years ago . . . lost to porn and expenses and lack of youngsters wanting to learn the art. Leslie Zemeckis should be given praise, awards and recognition for this incredible piece history preserved at the last possible moment, while a few or the artistes are, or at the time of the filming were, still with us. More than that, Zemeckis should be given more and more assignments, for as this documentary proves she is nothing short of brilliant.
Zemeckis, wife of producer/director/writer Robert Zemeckis, replaces anything that could be called judgmental with love. As she interviews these ladies, shows lengthy clips from their past and explains in a seemingly relaxed, but actually a strict and inclusive narrative, each element of life connected with this art form, this world of glamour and glitz comes back with a rosy hue. Yet Zemeckis never turns from the darker side of this life: exploitation, drug addiction, the mob, alcoholism and suicide. When one of the ladies is asked if she'd do it again or if she'd change anything as she looked back on what must be three quarters of a century, she explains with a gargantuan smile that she'd do it again . . . and not change a thing. That's love, commitment to art, and certainly a life well spent.
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Format: DVD
In the golden days of entertainment when it appeared that the moving pictures were threatening to kill the live vaudeville show, the answer seemed clear. Give audiences something they couldn't see in the movie house. And so burlesque was born. Keeping the variety and comedic elements so crucial to vaudeville, burlesque merely upped the skin quotient by adding a strip, a tease, and a striptease. (The film taught me the three didn't always go together!) And a new era of entertainment and a new style of celebrity were born. The colorful documentary "Behind the Burly Q" examines this historical phenomenon and stands as a unique and important look back through history. Filmmaker Leslie Zemeckis deftly weaves archival footage with contemporary interviews to give an exclusive peek at a nearly forgotten art form. And now, if ever, is the time--while there are still first hand accounts to add depth and dimension to the discussion.

Although there were some downbeat components to burlesque--in fact, many of the earliest performers hailed from difficult or abusive backgrounds--the film doesn't' wallow in negative. The ladies interviewed seem to be proud of their status and contribution, as if the stage offered them an escape and not merely exploitation. In those days, it could lead to power, fame and (most importantly) financial stability. And it wasn't just about baring it all, there was an artistic component and outlet involved. I kept thinking about the musical "Gypsy" and the number You Gotta Get A Gimmick (and indeed, the real Gypsy Rose Lee is featured in the film's background material), and the individual ladies often did have a singular claim to fame.
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Format: DVD
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"Behind The Burly Q"
Directed by Leslie Zemeckis
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This bare-bones documentary (no pun intended) looks back at the golden years of American burlesque theater, a low-rent, erotically charged offshoot of the world of vaudeville, where comedians and musical acts shared the stage with young girls who did striptease acts and pushed the envelope of social propriety. Director Leslie Zemeckis (wife of mega-producer Robert Zemeckis) conducted several years of first-person interviews with a number of veteran performers, including many of the most famous striptease artists, along with club owners and other performers, telling their own stories about the glories and the misery of their profession. They are pretty frank about the downsides -- alcoholism and drug use, grubby venues, sexual harassment, legal hassles -- but most also look back fondly at the camaraderie and air of genial competitiveness, and at the excitement of being in show biz and finding a way out of the economic hard times of their Great Depression backgrounds. There are also connections to the wider world of famous entertainers: Alan Alda recalls being on tour with his father, actor Robert Alda, who worked as an emcee in the burlesque circuit, and at the decency and kindness of the performers he met as a child; others recall the days when Abbott & Costello warmed up the crowds with their comedy act. It's not a rosy-eyed, nostalgic look back, but even in their seventies and eighties, the interviewees have such large, generous personalities that it's hard not to be drawn in and charmed by their stories.
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