"Boardwalk Empire" fans who knew nothing about the period might have been surprised to find this guy was a real person. Famous, too.
"Scandals" was the popular term for something that had musical numbers and legs and naughty lyrics, and we all know how decadent the Romans were. So. Natural fit. Eddie is a simpleton who runs afoul of the Powers that Be in the town of West Rome, and after a requisite musical number to assure you this is, indeed, a musical, he's escorted to the edge of town . . .
. . . whereupon he crosses some interdimensional time barrier and ends up in Actual Rome, beset by soldiers who walk around with arrows in case they have to engage in close-combat. Sort of like policemen with sniper rifles.
Naturally he ingratiates himself into Roman Society, and since everyone is temporarily getting along, this calls for a musical number. It's Busby Berkely, so it's staged on a revolving slave-auction dais, complete with mournful warbling music by sob-sister Ruth Etting. For fans of Berkeley, it's so small and restrained it's practically chamber music.
Here we get to the gist's pith: the entire point of this movie, aside from Eddie's comedy, is pre-code women with long platinum hair covering the booboisie, so to speak. Recognize this lass?
See what I mean about pre-code? They showed everything they could possibly get away with showing.
This is nothing compared to the spa sequence, where the Roman Gals sing a merry song about the necessity of staying young, firm, unlined and pert if you want to be loved. Otherwise, if you become old you will be shunned by men and laughed at by desireable, available women.
Humid. Of course, we can't let the sequence pass without this:
Keep in mind that the women's spa is staffed with Black slaves, and Eddie plays a fellow who got muddied up and was mistaken for an Etheopian slave. So he's literally a slave when he does this blackface routine. The sequence ends when he enters a steam bath, and as devotees of Warner Brothers cartoons know well, steam baths make you shrink. In this case it turns him into a tiny black child wearing blackface.
He jumps into the pool to reconstitute, and all the ladies follow to goggle and giggle, but: color line strictly observed, even in this integrated Roman bath.