Behind the Burly Q

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Behind the Burly Q
Behind the Burly Q.jpg
Directed by Leslie Zemeckis
Produced by
Written by Leslie Zemeckis
Music by Phil Marshall
Cinematography Sheri Hellard
Edited by Evan Finn
Mistress, Inc.
Distributed by First Run Features
Release dates
  • April 23, 2010 (2010-04-23)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $23,889[1]

Behind the Burly Q is a 2010 film documentary looking back at the golden age of Burlesque—one of America's most popular forms of live entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century.[2][3]


This documentary film reveals the story of burlesque by telling the intimate and surprising stories from its golden age through the women (and men) who lived it. The film features dozens of interviews with performers, musicians and authors including:

  • actor Alan Alda, whose father Robert Alda was a handsome “tit singer” and a straight man
  • Nat Bodian, journalist who wrote and saw burlesque at the Empire in Newark in the 1930s
  • Lorraine Lee, who used to dance for Bonnie and Clyde and Pretty Boy Floyd and “earned a quarter”
  • April March, First Lady of Burlesque, who started as a cigarette girl in Oklahoma and became a headliner at clubs and theaters worldwide and a burlesque legend
  • Tempest Storm, who still performs today and claims to have been lovers with Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy
  • the notorious Blaze Starr, who escaped a life of poverty to rise to the heights of fame, and became involved with Earl Long
  • Kitty West, aka Evangelina the Oyster Girl, the Bourbon Street star, who entertained busloads of tourists as she “came out of her oyster”
  • Taffy O’Neill, who performed at night, and spent the days taking her young son, stricken with polio, to treatment
  • Mike Iannucci, star stripper Ann Corio’s husband and producer of “This Was Burlesque”
  • Rachel Schteir who wrote the book Striptease, a comprehensive history of the art of stripteasing
  • and Janet Davis, author of the extensively researched book on Tiny Kline, whom Walt Disney discovered and made the first Tinker Bell when she was in her 60s.


Behind the Burly Q has received mixed reviews from critics. Emily Hourican of the Irish Independent lauded the film as "an absorbing, moving and cleverly constructed look at the tradition of American burlesque."[4] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times was less enthusiastic, claiming the film "settles too easily for an editing formula which alternates talking heads, too cursory performance footage and montages of headlines and photographs."[5] Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 78% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 27 reviews with a "Certified Fresh" rating, and an average score of 6.5/10.“Provides a privileged front-row seat to sample several of the form's most memorable practitioners… stories run from raunchy to touching to funny to flat-out incredible.”–Ronnie Scheib, Variety[6]“It’s smart, brassy, sassy and charming.” –Jennifer Merin[7]“(Zemeckis) has preserved for us a lively, lovely corner of American life.” - Richard Schickel.[8] In 2013, Zemekis's book expanding on the film's treatment of burlesque, also called Behind the Burly Q, was published by Skyhorse publishing. The book was a critical success. “This rich history, rife with vibrant quotes and first-hand insights from burlesque’s biggest dancers, is indispensable for fans of the ribald pastime.” – Publisher’s Weekly.[9] “The salty reminiscences of participants in the classic age of burlesque enliven this companion volume to a documentary film directed by the author. An affectionate and historically valuable document.” – Kirkus.[10] The book delves into details and untold stories, including the accidents that took place on stage from time to time. Tee Tee Red recaps "one night, she caught the heeel of her shoe in a hole as she was doing a spin. She was thrown up in the air and landed between the whiskey bottles."[11] Joan Arline recalled "As a chorus girl on a swing she slid off and landed in the audience.[12]


  1. ^ "Behind the Burly Q (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Leslie Zemeckis (Director) (2010). Behind the Burly Q (DVD). First Run Features. ASIN B004I45MUC. 
  3. ^ Gelt, Jessica (6 July 2013). "'Behind the Burly Q' a revealing portrait of burlesque's stars". Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ Hourican, Emily (7 March 2010). "Leslie takes peek behind burlesque curtain". Irish Independent. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (18 August 2010). "Behind the Burly-Q". 
  6. ^ Scheib, Ronnie. [<> "Review: ‘Behind the Burly Q’"]. Variety. 
  7. ^ Merin, Jennifer. > "Picking Your Favorite Documentaries". Retrieved 2014-05-14. 
  8. ^ Schickel, Richard. Cinema Arts Center.
  9. ^ Publisher's Weekly
  10. ^ Kirkus
  11. ^ Zemeckis, Leslie (2013). [ Behind The Burly Q] Check |url= scheme (help). Delaware: Skyhorse. ISBN 978-1-62087-691-6
  12. ^ Zemeckis, Leslie (2013). [ Behind The Burly Q] Check |url= scheme (help). Delaware: Skyhorse. ISBN 978-1-62087-691-6

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