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'The Outrageous Sophie Tucker' justifies its subject's fleeting fame

The documentary about the singer, who was famous during the late 1920s and '30s, could have used more performance footage. 

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Film still from 'The Outrageous Sophie Tucker.'

Courtesy of Menemsha Films

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One of the strange things about popular culture is how often major stars from bygone eras are forgotten by subsequent generations. Sophie Tucker, the subject of William Gazecki’s documentary “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker,” was, during much of the late 1920s and the ’30s, perhaps the most popular entertainer in America, her only rival being Al Jolson. (Remember him?)

Known as the “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” for her bawdy stage presence and the way she could belt out a song, Tucker was a mentor to Judy Garland and an inspiration to Mae West, Bette Midler, and many others. I wish the film, which is mostly a standard-issue talking-heads-and-clips affair, had showcased more of her performing, but what we see still justifies her fleeting fame. Grade: B (This film is not rated.)

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