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The Seven Little Foys

The Seven Little Foys(1955)

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The working titles of this film were The Eddie Foy Story and Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys. Most of the opening credits are preceded by the scene depicting the Foys's Christmas Day debut at the Palace Theatre. The title cards read: "Bob Hope as Eddie Foy in The Seven Little Foys." Music credits include the notation: "Featuring the songs sung by Eddie Foy."
       Eddie Foy, born Edwin Fitzgerald in 1856, began his show business career as a child, singing and dancing in the streets of New York and Chicago in support of his family. In the late 1870s, he began touring western mining camps and cow towns, including Tombstone, where he performed for legendary lawmen Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. He returned to Chicago in 1888 as a comic headliner in revues and variety shows. As depicted in the film, on December 30, 1903, while appearing in the musical Mr. Blue Beard at Chicago's Iroquois Theatre, Foy helped battle a fire that claimed 600 lives, urging the panicked audience to remain calm. Foy first appeared on the vaudeville stage with his seven children in August 1912; in 1913, the family undertook their first regular tour. Unlike in the film, the family act was not created as a result of the death of Foy's wife, Madeleine Morando Foy. Madeleine, who was actually Foy's third wife, travelled with the act, along with a nurse and a governess, until her death in 1918. The Foy Family, who were based in New Rochelle, NY, toured the vaudeville circuit for ten years, enjoying great popularity during World War I. Foy died in 1928.
       Foy appeared in two films-by himself in Vitagraph's 1910 film Actors' Fund Field Day (see AFI Catalog. Film Beginnings, 1893-1910) and with his children in a 1915 Mack Sennett short, A Favorite Fool. Foy's oldest son, Bryan "Brynie" Foy (1896-1977), became a successful film director and producer. Eddie, Jr. (1905-1983) continued in show business as a stage and film actor. Foy, Sr.'s youngest child, and his last surviving offspring, was Irving, who died in 2003. Foy's grandson, Eddie Foy III, made his screen acting debut in 1955 and later became a casting director. Eddie, Jr. played his father in the 1939 Twentieth Century-Fox release Frontier Marshal, reenacting Foy's reputed encounter with Wyatt Earp (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40), and in the 1943 Warner Bros. film Yankee Doodle Dandy, a biography of George M. Cohan, which starred James Cagney as the famed entertainer and songwriter (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Cagney recreated the Cohan role in The Seven Little Foys.
       The Seven Little Foys marked the first time that Hope had starred in a film biography, and the first time he impersonated a "song-and-dance man." It also marked the producing debut of Jack Rose and the directing debut of Melville Shavelson. Rose and Shavelson had been Hope's radio gagmen, as well as successful screenwriters, and according to modern sources, approached Hope with the idea of starring in a Foy biography. Hope Enterprises, which co-produced with Paramount and Rose and Shavelson's company Scribe Productions, negotiated for a forty-four percent cut of the film's profits, according to modern sources. In addition to Charley Foy, who narrates the picture, Hope consulted with Bryan and Eddie, Jr. prior to making The Seven Little Foys. Contemporary sources note that Eddie, Jr., who was starring in the Broadway production of The Pajama Game at the time of production, was originally to do the narration. Several reviews incorrectly credit him as narrator.
       Modern sources state that Cagney took the part of Cohan as a favor to Hope (and to lose weight) and performed without contract, or compensation. One modern source claims that Cagney refused pay because the Foy family had befriended him when he was a struggling actor and Cagney wanted to return the kindness. Hope rehearsed extensively with Cagney on their dance routine. Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts add the following actors to the cast: Don Harvey, Fred Sweeney, Philo McCullough, Paul MacWilliams, Rex Moore, Nick Borgani, Harlan Hoagland, John Marlin, Thomas F. Martin, Frank Meservy, Frank Baker, James Gray, Kenneth Gibson, Raoul Freeman, Wallace Dean, Jack Deery, Dan Dowling and David Kasday. The appearance of the these actors in the final film has not been confirmed. Location shooting took place in Sierra Madre, CA, according to an August 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item.
       The film's June 1, 1955 world premiere in Sydney, Australia, and its premiere in Los Angeles were benefits for the Cerebral Palsy Fund, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. The Seven Little Foys was nominated for a Best Writing (Story and Screenplay) Academy Award. In late January 1964, the NBC television network broadcast The Seven Little Foys, a second version of the story, starring Eddie Foy, Jr. as his father, Mickey Rooney as Cohan and four Osmond Brothers as Foy children. George Tobias recreated his role as "Barney Green" for the television broadcast.