Vintage Edmonton: Gorgeous George Comes To Edmonton ( October 27, 1949)

photo by Stanley Kubrick

"Gorgeous" George Wagner was the biggest wrestling star of the 1940s and 50s. A competent but bland grappler, he became "Gorgeous George" in early 1941 after witnessing fellow wrestler "Lord" Patrick Lansdowne's entrances to the ring in red robes, accompanied by a valet. George ratcheted up the outragousness and camp to the 10th power, and his entrances (and the white-hot heat it generated in crowds) became the first true "sports entertainment" spectacle and made him famous, and infamous:

George's true peak as a wrestling/show business monolith was at the advent of Television, where along with Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, and Sid Ceasar became the first of television's stars. Professional wrestling was a reliable Friday and Saturday night ratings blockbuster for networks, and George it's biggest ratings draw.

Promoter Al Oeming scored a coup (and handed over a substantial percentage of gate receipts) to bring George to Edmonton to headline a card on October 27, 1949. By this time George's act had become a well-oiled machine, and draw so great that he commanded anywhere from 30-50 percent of the box office gate wherever he wrestled. The Journal led the coverage of the eagerly awaited upcoming wrestling card:

                                                               October 18, 1949:

October 21:

October 22:

George was always the master showman, and his antics were great publicly fodder:  

October 25:

October 26:

Legendary Journal sportswriter Don Fleming got a colorful, entertaining backstory from Bibber McCoy, wrestling on the undercard:

Sportswriter Johnny Hopkins was less than enthused with George's wrestling prowess, but grudgingly acknowledged his drawing power:  

October 27:

Sammy Manacker, Stu Hart's opponent on the undercard, was a long-time wrestling announcer and commentator of Australian TV in the 1970s:   

October 28:

6000 wrestling fans packed the Gardens for the card and although George's entrance in the main event was on-brand spectacle, the match and officiating (along with George's effort in the ring) itself left much to be desired according to Johnny Hopkins:

Tiger Goldstick made an appearance in George's corner in the main event: 

Don Fleming scored an interview with George, and gave his own take on the proceedings:

This tidbit is very intriguing, though it's accuracy is dubious:  

And George himself explains why he was a power draw:

One of the interesting items in Fleming's interview with George is his impending starring role in a future Abbott And Costello film "Abbott And Costello In The French Foreign Legion" to begin filming in November 1949. Alas, an injury to Lou Costello delayed filming for several months and George's schedule conflicted, but he did star in one film, 1949's Alias The Champ:

December 16, 1949

It ran 2 more times in Edmonton:

May 6, 1950:

February 14, 1951

The film itself was a low-budget melodrama featuring George as of course, a wrestler: