Behind the Burly Q

Behind the Burly Q

DVD - 2010
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Surveys the history of American burlesque in the early 20th century, featuring archival footage and interviews with strippers and comedians.
Publisher: New York, NY : First Run Features, 2010
Edition: Widescreen
Description: 1 videodisc (98 min.) : sd., col., b&w ; 4 3/4 in
Branch Call Number: DVD 792.70973 Beh


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Oct 05, 2015

"Behind The Burly Q" is a very good documentary, focussing on the age of the burlesque theatres, mainly from the 1930's to '50's (though Victory Burlesque in Toronto was still operating in the 1970's). We learn that burlesque performances were not just "striptease," but variety, shows. One of the dancers says, "The comics were the main thing in burlesque, not the women." She's not convincing. The director, Leslie Zekemis, uses an oral and visual history approach to her topic, interviewing a musician, an acrobat, a female impersonator, and children of performers (including Alan Alda and Lou Costello's daughter), along with many strippers.

Although the folks in the film seem happy to be reminiscing about their lives, they show us the dark side of the lifestyle as well. One stripper describes the comedians -- all men it seems -- as "mean, vicious, angry, and frustrated," as a result of not being able to make the big time. As the retired strippers talk about their lives, the topics of arrests, mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism, personal attacks, suicide, murder, and organized crime all arise. We hear of many dancers who didn't make it to old age, so that they were unable to join the frank and delightful women who reminisce in this movie. On the other hand, in explaining their work situations and family lives, these women and men tell entertaining and humorous stories, passing on interesting gossip about both other strippers and famous men. We're left with no doubt that, though they made a great deal of money, they worked hard for a living.

Zemekis treats her subject in a respectful manor, and has clearly earned the trust of the many people she interviews. "Behind The Burly Q" will be of interest to anyone interested in women's and gender issues, or in modern American social history, as well as to anyone curious about burlesque and stripping. The extras are worth watching; I especially enjoyed the director's reunion party for the people in the film, many of whom had not seen each other in decades.

Oct 09, 2014

Fascinating historical documentary. I did not know that Alan Alda grew up as a vaudeville brat.

Jan 08, 2014

Entertaining and somewhat raunchy. The sound is sometimes poor, but documentaries are made under conditions that are difficult. The retired strippers are fun to listen to; they don't seem to regret the life they chose to lead (why should they?).

Apr 28, 2013

Through dozens of priceless stills, vintage footage and recent interviews, Behind the Burly Q (as a documentary) tells the revealing story of "Burlesque" at the absolute height of its vast popularity in the USA during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s._____ Not only was Burlesque a perfect venue for aspiring glamor girls (as "exotic dancers") to entertain their cheering audiences with a little raunchy striptease (ooh-la-la!), but it also offered a great opportunity for budding, young comedians and novelty acts to perform on stage and get the sort of exposure needed to help further their careers._____ Gaudy, bawdy and spectacular, Behind The Burly Q gives the viewer a titilatingly spicy (and sometimes funny) slice of by-gone American entertainment that has often been misunderstood and even omitted from books on 20th Century historical culture._____ FYI - Yes. This DVD does contain nudity.

aaa5756 Jul 28, 2011


Jul 04, 2011

Interesting history of the burlesque from the people involved. some of the audio was hard to understand and some pictures grainy but overall the production is fun and provocative.
The focus was on the strippers and I would have liked to see more on the comics, owners and more holistic exploration of this entertainment form.
Enjoyable and informative

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