Jean (sometimes Gene) Malin got his start as a female impersonator in the 20s, but his greatest success would come later as a noted emcee during the time of the short-lived and under-researched "pansy craze" of the early 30s. He died on August 10, 1933, accidentally backing his car off the Santa Monica pier; actress Patsy Kelly, who was with him at the time, survived. He left behind but two recordings, released posthumously and pressed in a single royal blue shellac 78, "That's What's the Matter With Me" and "I'd Rather Be Spanish Than Mannish." [Source: "Gay New York (Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940)" by George Chauncey]
from Vanity Fair, February 1931, Jean Malin at the Club Abbey
Malin Video Clip
Malin appeared in at least two movies, and I've got a clip of him in "Arizona to Broadway" (1933), which starred James Dunn and Joan Bennett. Malin had an uncredited role as Ray Best, a female impersonator obviously intended to represent Mae West. To set up this scene, a gangster, Tommy Monk, wants to have a Broadway show so at gunpoint lures top performers of the day to take part. Also represented was Jimmy Durante and Ed Wynn. This is the earliest clip I know of a performance of an actual female impersonator.
Below, two stills from the movie "From Arizona To Broadway,"
with Jean Malin's character Ray Best, "doing" Mae West
Above, left to right, Max Wagner, Jean Malin, J Carrol Naish
Below, with Walter Catlett
Above label scans courtesy of Tyler Alpern
little survives about Jean Malin, so I'm sharing these two pics of
him, from a copy of
Below, (on the right) from promotional shots for the 1933 movie "Double Harness"
Malin was originally cast in the role of a dress-shop owner for this
another promotional shot, of a scene not in the movie,
For trivia sake, below is Fredric Santley, who replaced Jean Malin in "Double Harness"
from Richard Lamparski's very interesting book
1932, Club New Yorker, with Thelma Todd, Pat DiCicco, Lois Wilson
Club New Yorker, 1/17/33, with Maurice Chavalier, Marlene Dietrich,
of the articles below are from syndicated gossip columns, rather
irony of the above caption is hilarious...
Grauman (of Grauman's Chinese Theatre) apparently
the 78 rpm recording was released after his death
Below, NYT article reporting his death
Below, two more Malin obituaries
and, Mrs. Malin made the papers years later on her own, notoriously...
New addition (Dec 2010)
Jean Malin show ad
"The Harlequin's Installation Revel, at the Masquers"
actual size ad, 5"x7"
cover of The Masquers Program
And, below, one of the crowns of my memorabilia collection...
the 20's & 30's it was common for club goers to show appreciation
by "clapping" with
an internet friend Brian Ferree sent me these photos