Friday, January 27, 2012

Famous Freemason: Charles "Chic" Sale

Earlier in the week I posted an entry called Hiking Through History: Urbana Lodge No. 157, and in it, I mentioned a famous Freemason from Urbana Lodge No. 157 (IL)--Charles "Chic" Sale.  I thought I'd expand on that a bit, in fact, there's a very good chance I'll tell the rest of Chic Sale's story in Famous American Freemasons: Volume III.

Bro. Charles "Chic" Sale (1885 - 1936)
Urbana Lodge, No 157 (IL)
Charles "Chic" Sale was a vaudeville comedian, and beginning in the 1920s a film actor--he made more than twenty films.  He also appeared occasionally in the Ziegfield Follies and the Shubert Winter Garden shows.  He was best known for his comedic "folksy" backwater characters, which often included heavy makeup, and he took that talent onto the silver screen when he began working in films.  In his best known picture His Nibs, Chic Sale played several different characters in the film--kind of a one man show. 

But it wasn't until 1929 that he became well-known.  Inspired by a carpenter named "Lem Putt" from his hometown of Urbana, Illinois, he wrote The Specialist, a play about an outhouse builder.  He knew he had something unique in that play, and knowing that Vaudeville performers were notorious for stealing each others work, he hired a couple newspapermen to adapt the play into a book.  The book became a big hit, but was considered very risque at the time--in fact, if it weren't for Chic's careful wording, it would most likely have been banned.  The book sold 200,000 copies the first three months after release, and sold over a million copies in total--no small accomplishment at the time.  The book made him famous.

Chic Sale as Abraham Lincoln
Although Chic Sale did mostly comic work both as a Vaudeville performer and in film, he did do one serious piece.  He portrayed Abraham Lincoln in a short film The Perfect Tribute.  The film tells a story about how Lincoln was disappointed by the lackluster response to his address at Gettysburg, and shortly afterward, is walking in Washington, D. C. when a young man meets up with him--his brother, a Southern soldier is dying in a local hospital and needs an attorney to take down his will.  Lincoln accompanies the young man to the hospital to act as the attorney for the dying soldier, who has been blinded at Gettysburg.  Not realizing he's talking to President Lincoln, he tells the President about the speech, and the reason why everyone was so quiet afterwards . . . they were too awed by the President's words to react.

Soupy Sales
Chic Sale was very well known by the 1930s--often his book was the subject of jokes by the likes of Groucho Marx.  In fact, he was so revered in his time, that a young comedian by the name of Milton Supman changed his stage name from Soupy Hines, to Soupy Sales in his honor.

Charles "Chic" Sale was a member of Urbana Lodge No. 147 (IL)

~TEC

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