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Re: Slowly I Turn

Posted by Rephah on December 12, 2000

In Reply to: Re: Slowly I Turn posted by Bob on October 19, 2000

: : : : Does anyone know the origin of the phrase "Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch"? I been looking for almost a year, but can't find it.Thanks!

: : : It's from a Three Stooges movie, "Gents Without Cents" made in 1944. Curly says "Niagra Falls" and Moe (who was under some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion? I don't remember) turns on him and launches into the speech. (I dunno. Seemed funny when I was a kid.) See www.imdb.com for good sources of movie quotes, trivia, etc.

: : This was also from an Abbott and Costello movie entitled "Lost in A Harem".
: : Many of Bud and Lou's best-known routines were vaudeville and/or burlesque standards. The "Niagara Falls" bit ("Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch...I took my revenge.") was performed by many teams before becoming identified with Abbott & Costello.

: I had a suspicion that it might be an old burlesque routine. I met a man once, in 1968, who was a high school earth science teacher from Colorado who, as a hobby/scholarly pursuit, spent his summers tracking down old burlesque comedians to record oral histories of the routines, many of which were not written down. People on the circuit just knew them. He also interviewed strippers, many of whom were elderly now, and recorded some wonderful stories. I don't know if or where he ever published them. Ring a bell with anybody?

It must indeed have been a burlesque or vaudeville routine. I've seen an episode of "I Love Lucy" in which Lucy wants to go on stage. An old vaudeville actor comes to her house and gives her an acting lesson. He sets out to teach her the act "Slowly I Turn." This actor was traumatized by a bad marriage--I think his wife left him--to a woman named Martha, and he can't stand to hear her name. As he demonstrates the vaudeville act, every time Lucy innocently says "Martha," he hits her.