Vaudeville (/ˈvɔːd(ə)vɪl/; French: [vodvil]) is a theatrical genre of variety entertainment born in France at the end of the 18th century. A vaudeville was originally a comedy without psychological or moral intentions, based on a comical situation: a kind of dramatic composition or light poetry, interspersed with songs or ballets. It became popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, but the idea of vaudeville's theatre changed radically from its French antecedent.

In some ways analogous to music hall from Victorian Britain,[1] a typical American vaudeville performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts have included popular and classical musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, ventriloquists, strongmen, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies. A vaudeville performer is often referred to as a "vaudevillian".

Vaudeville developed from many sources, also including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary American burlesque. Called "the heart of American show business", vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America for several decades.[2]

The Sandow Trocadero Vaudevilles, performing arts poster, 1894
A promotional poster for the Sandow Trocadero Vaudevilles (1894), showing dancers, clowns, trapeze artists, costumed dog, singers and costumed actors


The origin of the term is obscure, but is often explained as being derived from the French expression voix de ville ("voice of the city"). A second speculation is that it comes from the 15th-century songs on satire by poet Olivier Basselin, "Vaux de Vire".[3] In his Connections television series, science historian James Burke argues that the term is a corruption of the French "Vau de Vire" ("Vire River Valley", in English), an area known for its bawdy drinking songs and where Basselin lived;[4] Jean le Houx circa 1610 collected these works as Le Livre des Chants nouveaux de Vaudevire, which is probably the direct origin of the word. Some, however, preferred the earlier term "variety" to what manager Tony Pastor called its "sissy and Frenchified" successor. Thus, vaudeville was marketed as "variety" well into the 20th century.


Character comedian charles e grapewin
From newspaper promotional for vaudeville character actor Charles Grapewin, circa 1900

With its first subtle appearances within the early 1860s, vaudeville was not initially a common form of entertainment. The form gradually evolved from the concert saloon and variety hall into its mature form throughout the 1870s and 1880s. This more gentle form was known as "Polite Vaudeville".[5]

In the years before the American Civil War, entertainment existed on a different scale. Certainly, variety theatre existed before 1860 in Europe and elsewhere. In the US, as early as the first decades of the 19th century, theatregoers could enjoy a performance consisting of Shakespeare plays, acrobatics, singing, dancing, and comedy. As the years progressed, people seeking diversified amusement found an increasing number of ways to be entertained. Vaudeville was characterized by traveling companies touring through cities and towns.[6] A handful of circuses regularly toured the country; dime museums appealed to the curious; amusement parks, riverboats, and town halls often featured "cleaner" presentations of variety entertainment; compared to saloons, music halls, and burlesque houses, which catered to those with a taste for the risqué. In the 1840s, the minstrel show, another type of variety performance, and "the first emanation of a pervasive and purely American mass culture", grew to enormous popularity and formed what Nick Tosches called "the heart of 19th-century show business".[7] A significant influence also came from Dutch minstrels and comedians.[8] Medicine shows traveled the countryside offering programs of comedy, music, jugglers, and other novelties along with displays of tonics, salves, and miracle elixirs, while "Wild West" shows provided romantic vistas of the disappearing frontier, complete with trick riding, music and drama. Vaudeville incorporated these various itinerant amusements into a stable, institutionalized form centered in America's growing urban hubs.

In the early 1880s, impresario Tony Pastor, a circus ringmaster turned theatre manager, capitalized on middle class sensibilities and spending power when he began to feature "polite" variety programs in several of his New York City theatres.[9] The usual date given for the "birth" of vaudeville is October 24, 1881 at New York's Fourteenth Street Theatre, when Pastor famously staged the first bill of self-proclaimed "clean" vaudeville in New York City.[3] Hoping to draw a potential audience from female and family-based shopping traffic uptown, Pastor barred the sale of liquor in his theatres, eliminated bawdy material from his shows, and offered gifts of coal and hams to attendees. Pastor's experiment proved successful, and other managers soon followed suit.


Kirksville Mercantile College
Typical provincial venue on the circuit: "The Opera" in Kirksville, Missouri

B. F. Keith took the next step, starting in Boston, where he built an empire of theatres and brought vaudeville to the US and Canada. Later, E. F. Albee, adoptive grandfather of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, managed the chain to its greatest success. Circuits such as those managed by Keith-Albee provided vaudeville's greatest economic innovation and the principal source of its industrial strength. They enabled a chain of allied vaudeville houses that remedied the chaos of the single-theatre booking system by contracting acts for regional and national tours. These could easily be lengthened from a few weeks to two years.

Albee also gave national prominence to vaudeville's trumpeting "polite" entertainment, a commitment to entertainment equally inoffensive to men, women and children. Acts that violated this ethos (e.g., those that used words such as "hell") were admonished and threatened with expulsion from the week's remaining performances or were canceled altogether. In spite of such threats, performers routinely flouted this censorship, often to the delight of the very audience members whose sensibilities were supposedly endangered. He eventually instituted a set of guidelines to be an audience member at his show, and these were reinforced by the ushers working in the theatre.[3]

This "polite entertainment" also extended to Keith's company members. He went to extreme measures to maintain this level of modesty. Keith even went as far as posting warnings backstage such as this: "Don't say 'slob' or 'son of a gun' or 'hully gee' on the stage unless you want to be canceled peremptorily... if you are guilty of uttering anything sacrilegious or even suggestive you will be immediately closed and will never again be allowed in a theatre where Mr. Keith is in authority." Along these same lines of discipline, Keith's theatre managers would occasionally send out blue envelopes with orders to omit certain suggestive lines of songs and possible substitutions for those words. If actors chose to ignore these orders or quit, they would get "a black mark" on their name and would never again be allowed to work on the Keith Circuit. Thus, actors learned to follow the instructions given them by B. F. Keith for fear of losing their careers forever.[3]

By the late 1890s, vaudeville had large circuits, houses (small and large) in almost every sizable location, standardized booking, broad pools of skilled acts, and a loyal national following. One of the biggest circuits was Martin Beck's Orpheum Circuit. It incorporated in 1919 and brought together 45 vaudeville theatres in 36 cities throughout the US and Canada and a large interest in two vaudeville circuits. Another major circuit was that of Alexander Pantages. In his heyday, Pantages owned more than 30 vaudeville theatres and controlled, through management contracts, perhaps 60 more in both the US and Canada.

At its height, vaudeville played across multiple strata of economic class and auditorium size. On the vaudeville circuit, it was said that if an act would succeed in Peoria, Illinois, it would work anywhere. The question "Will it play in Peoria?" has now become a metaphor for whether something appeals to the American mainstream public. The three most common levels were the "small time" (lower-paying contracts for more frequent performances in rougher, often converted theatres), the "medium time" (moderate wages for two performances each day in purpose-built theatres), and the "big time" (possible remuneration of several thousand dollars per week in large, urban theatres largely patronized by the middle and upper-middle classes). As performers rose in renown and established regional and national followings, they worked their way into the less arduous working conditions and better pay of the big time. The capital of the big time was New York City's Palace Theatre (or just "The Palace" in the slang of vaudevillians), built by Martin Beck in 1913 and operated by Keith. Featuring a bill stocked with inventive novelty acts, national celebrities, and acknowledged masters of vaudeville performance (such as comedian and trick roper Will Rogers), the Palace provided what many vaudevillians considered the apotheosis of remarkable careers. A standard show bill would begin with a sketch, follow with a single (an individual male or female performer); next would be an alley oop (an acrobatic act); then another single, followed by yet another sketch such as a blackface comedy. The acts that followed these for the rest of the show would vary from musicals to jugglers to song-and-dance singles and end with a final extravaganza – either musical or drama – with the full company. These shows would feature such stars as ragtime and jazz pianist Eubie Blake, the famous and magical Harry Houdini, and child star Baby Rose Marie, adds Gilbert.[10] In the New-York Tribune's article about Vaudeville, it is said that at any given time, Vaudeville was employing over twelve thousand different people throughout its entire industry. Each entertainer would be on the road 42 weeks at a time while working a particular "Circuit" – or an individual theatre chain of a major company.[11]

How to Enter Vaudeville cover
This 1913 how-to booklet for would-be vaudevillians was recently republished.

While the neighborhood character of vaudeville attendance had always promoted a tendency to tailor fare to specific audiences, mature vaudeville grew to feature houses and circuits specifically aimed at certain demographic groups. Black patrons, often segregated into the rear of the second gallery in white-oriented theatres, had their own smaller circuits, as did speakers of Italian and Yiddish. (For a brief discussion of Black vaudeville, see Theatre Owners Booking Association.) This foreign addition combined with comedy produced such acts as "minstrel shows of antebellum America" and Yiddish theatre. PBS adds that many of these ethnic families joined in on this entertainment business, and for them, this traveling lifestyle was simply a continuation of the adventures that brought them to America. Through these acts, they were able to assimilate themselves into their new home while also bringing bits of their own culture into this new world.[12] White-oriented regional circuits, such as New England's "Peanut Circuit", also provided essential training grounds for new artists while allowing established acts to experiment with and polish new material. At its height, vaudeville was rivaled only by churches and public schools among the nation's premiere public gathering places.

Another slightly different aspect of Vaudeville was an increasing intrigue with the female figure. The previously mentioned ominous idea of "the blue envelopes" led to the phrase "blue" material, which described the provocative subject matter present in many Vaudeville acts of the time.[3] Many managers even saw this scandalous material as a marketing strategy to attract many different audiences. As stated in Andrew Erdman's book Blue Vaudeville, the Vaudeville stage was even marked with descriptions like, "a highly sexualized space ... where unclad bodies, provocative dancers, and singers of 'blue' lyrics all vied for attention." Such performances highlighted and objectified the female body as a "sexual delight", a phenomenon that historians believe emerged in the mid-19th century. But more than that, these historians think that Vaudeville marked a time in which the female body became its own "sexual spectacle" more than it ever had before. This sexual image began sprouting everywhere an American went: the shops, a restaurant, the grocery store, etc. The more this image brought in the highest revenue, the more Vaudeville focused on acts involving women. Even acts that were as innocent as a sister act were higher sellers than a good brother act. Consequently, Erdman adds that female Vaudeville performers such as Julie Mackey and Gibson's Bathing Girls began to focus less on talent and more on physical appeal through their figure, tight gowns, and other revealing attire. It eventually came as a surprise to audience members when such beautiful women actually possessed talent in addition to their appealing looks. This element of surprise colored much of the reaction to the female entertainment of this time.[13]

Immigrant America

In addition to vaudeville's prominence as a form of American entertainment, it reflected the newly evolving urban inner city culture and interaction of its operators and audience. Making up a large portion of immigration to the United States in the mid-19th century, Irish Americans interacted with established Americans, with the Irish becoming subject to discrimination due to their ethnic physical and cultural characteristics. The ethnic stereotypes of Irish through their greenhorn depiction alluded to their newly arrived status as immigrant Americans, with the stereotype portrayed in avenues of entertainment.[14]

Following the Irish immigration wave, several waves followed in which new immigrants from different backgrounds came in contact with the Irish in America's urban centers. Already settled and being native English speakers, Irish Americans took hold of these advantages and began to assert their positions in the immigrant racial hierarchy based on skin tone and assimilation status, cementing job positions that were previously unavailable to them as recently arrived immigrants.[15] As a result, Irish Americans became prominent in vaudeville entertainment as curators and actors, creating a unique ethnic interplay between Irish American use of self-deprecation as humor and their diverse inner city surroundings.[16]

The interactions between newly arrived immigrants and settled immigrants within the backdrop of the unknown American urban landscape allowed vaudeville to be utilized as an avenue for expression and understanding. The often hostile immigrant experience in their new country was now used for comic relief on the vaudeville stage, where stereotypes of different ethnic groups were perpetuated.[17] The crude stereotypes that emerged were easily identifiable not only by their distinct ethnic cultural attributes, but how those attributes differed from the mainstream established American culture and identity.[18]

Harry Houdini and Jennie, the Vanishing Elephant, January 7, 1918

Coupled with their historical presence on the English stage for comic relief,[16] and as operators and actors of the vaudeville stage, Irish Americans became interpreters of immigrant cultural images in American popular culture. New arrivals found their ethnic group status defined within the immigrant population and in their new country as a whole by the Irish on stage.[19] Unfortunately, the same interactions between ethnic groups within the close living conditions of cities also created racial tensions which were reflected in vaudeville. Conflict between Irish and African Americans saw the promotion of black-face minstrelsy on the stage, purposefully used to place African Americans beneath the Irish in the racial and social urban hierarchy.[20]

Although the Irish had a strong Celtic presence in vaudeville and in the promotion of ethnic stereotypes, the ethnic groups that they were characterizing also utilized the same humor. As the Irish donned their ethnic costumes, groups such as the Chinese, Italians, Germans and Jews utilized ethnic caricatures to understand themselves as well as the Irish.[21] The urban diversity within the vaudeville stage and audience also reflected their societal status, with the working class constituting two-thirds of the typical vaudeville audience.[21]

The ethnic caricatures that now comprised American humor reflected the positive and negative interactions between ethnic groups in America's cities. The caricatures served as a method of understanding different groups and their societal positions within their cities.[21] The use of the greenhorn immigrant for comedic effect showcased how immigrants were viewed as new arrivals, but also what they could aspire to be. In addition to interpreting visual ethnic caricatures, the Irish American ideal of transitioning from the shanty[22] to the lace curtain[18] became a model of economic upward mobility for immigrant groups.


Lady Duff Gordon styles sketched by Marguerite Martyn, 1918
Styles of Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, as presented in a vaudeville circuit pantomime and sketched by Marguerite Martyn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in April 1918

The continued growth of the lower-priced cinema in the early 1910s dealt the heaviest blow to vaudeville. This was similar to the advent of free broadcast television's diminishing the cultural and economic strength of the cinema. Cinema was first regularly commercially presented in the US in vaudeville halls. The first public showing of movies projected on a screen took place at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in 1896. Lured by greater salaries and less arduous working conditions, many performers and personalities, such as Al Jolson, W. C. Fields, Mae West, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, Jimmy Durante, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Edgar Bergen, Fanny Brice, Burns and Allen, and Eddie Cantor, used the prominence gained in live variety performance to vault into the new medium of cinema. In doing so, such performers often exhausted in a few moments of screen time the novelty of an act that might have kept them on tour for several years. Other performers who entered in vaudeville's later years, including Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello, Kate Smith, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Judy Garland, Rose Marie, Sammy Davis, Jr., Red Skelton, and The Three Stooges, used vaudeville only as a launching pad for later careers. They left live performance before achieving the national celebrity of earlier vaudeville stars, and found fame in new venues.

The line between live and filmed performances was blurred by the number of vaudeville entrepreneurs who made more or less successful forays into the movie business. For example, Alexander Pantages quickly realized the importance of motion pictures as a form of entertainment. He incorporated them in his shows as early as 1902. Later, he entered into partnership with the Famous Players-Lasky, a major Hollywood production company and an affiliate of Paramount Pictures.

By the late 1920s, most vaudeville shows included a healthy selection of cinema. Earlier in the century, many vaudevillians, cognizant of the threat represented by cinema, held out hope that the silent nature of the "flickering shadow sweethearts" would preclude their usurpation of the paramount place in the public's affection. With the introduction of talking pictures in 1926, the burgeoning film studios removed what had remained the chief difference in favor of live theatrical performance: spoken dialogue. Historian John Kenrick wrote:

Top vaudeville stars filmed their acts for one-time pay-offs, inadvertently helping to speed the death of vaudeville. After all, when "small time" theatres could offer "big time" performers on screen at a nickel a seat, who could ask audiences to pay higher amounts for less impressive live talent? The newly-formed RKO studios took over the famed Orpheum vaudeville circuit and swiftly turned it into a chain of full-time movie theatres. The half-century tradition of vaudeville was effectively wiped out within less than four years.[23]

Inevitably, managers further trimmed costs by eliminating the last of the live performances. Vaudeville also suffered due to the rise of broadcast radio following the greater availability of inexpensive receiver sets later in the decade. Even the hardiest in the vaudeville industry realized the form was in decline; the perceptive understood the condition to be terminal. The standardized film distribution and talking pictures of the 1930s confirmed the end of vaudeville. By 1930, the vast majority of formerly live theatres had been wired for sound, and none of the major studios were producing silent pictures. For a time, the most luxurious theatres continued to offer live entertainment, but most theatres were forced by the Great Depression to economize.

Some in the industry blamed cinema's drain of talent from the vaudeville circuits for the medium's demise. Others argued that vaudeville had allowed its performances to become too familiar to its famously loyal, now seemingly fickle audiences.

There was no abrupt end to vaudeville, though the form was clearly sagging by the late 1920s. Joseph Kennedy, Sr. in a hostile buyout, acquired the Keith-Albee-Orpheum Theatres Corporation (KAO), which had more than 700 vaudeville theatres across the United States which had begun showing movies. The shift of New York City's Palace Theatre, vaudeville's epicenter, to an exclusively cinema presentation on November 16, 1932 is often considered to have been the death knell of vaudeville.[24] No single event is more reflective of its gradual withering.

Though talk of its resurrection was heard during the 1930s and later, the demise of the supporting apparatus of the circuits and the higher cost of live performance made any large-scale renewal of vaudeville unrealistic.


The most striking examples of Gilded Age theatre architecture were commissioned by the big time vaudeville magnates and stood as monuments of their wealth and ambition. Examples of such architecture are the theatres built by impresario Alexander Pantages. Pantages often used architect B. Marcus Priteca (1881–1971), who in turn regularly worked with muralist Anthony Heinsbergen. Priteca devised an exotic, neo-classical style that his employer called "Pantages Greek".

Though classic vaudeville reached a zenith of capitalization and sophistication in urban areas dominated by national chains and commodious theatres, small-time vaudeville included countless more intimate and locally controlled houses. Small-time houses were often converted saloons, rough-hewn theatres, or multi-purpose halls, together catering to a wide range of clientele. Many small towns had purpose-built theatres.

Vaudeville's cultural influence and legacy

Ray wollbrinck vaudeville sm
As the genre declined, most performers left the theatre. The child tap dancer Ray Wollbrinck, once called "the cleverest buckdancer on the vaudeville stage", later became a bandleader and ended his days as a bank teller.

Some of the most prominent vaudevillians successfully made the transition to cinema, though others were not as successful. Some performers such as Bert Lahr fashioned careers out of combining live performance with radio and film roles. Many others later appeared in the Catskill resorts that constituted the "Borscht Belt".

Vaudeville was instrumental in the success of the newer media of film, radio, and television. Comedies of the new era adopted many of the dramatic and musical tropes of classic vaudeville acts. Film comedies of the 1920s through the 1940s used talent from the vaudeville stage and followed a vaudeville aesthetic of variety entertainment, both in Hollywood and in Asia, including China.[25]

The rich repertoire of the vaudeville tradition was mined for prominent prime-time radio variety shows such as The Rudy Vallée Show. The structure of a single host introducing a series of acts became a popular television style and can be seen consistently in the development of television, from The Milton Berle Show in 1948 to Late Night With David Letterman in the 1980s.[26] The multi-act format had renewed success in shows such as Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and The Ed Sullivan Show. Today, performers such as Bill Irwin, a MacArthur Fellow and Tony Award-winning actor, are frequently lauded as "New Vaudevillians".[27][28]

References to vaudeville and the use of its distinctive argot continue throughout Western popular culture. Words such as "flop" and "gag" were terms created from the vaudeville era and have entered the American idiom. Though not credited often, vaudevillian techniques can commonly be witnessed on television and in movies.

In professional wrestling, there was a noted tag team, based in WWE, called The Vaudevillains.[29]

In 2018, noted film director Christopher Annino, maker of a new silent feature film, Silent Times, founded Vaudeville Con, a gathering to celebrate the history of vaudeville. The first meeting was held in Pawcatuck, Connecticut.[30][31]


The records of the Tivoli Theatre are housed at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, with additional personal papers of vaudevillian performers from the Tivoli Theatre, including extensive costume and set design holdings, held by the Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne.

The American Vaudeville Museum, one of the largest collection of vaudeville memorabilia, is located at the University of Arizona.[32]

The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto houses the world's largest collection of vaudeville props and scenery.

The Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward F. Albee Collection housed at the University of Iowa includes a large collection of managers' report books recording and commenting on the lineup and quality of the acts each night.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "Forms of Variety Theater". Library of Congress. 1996. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  2. ^ Trav, S.D. (October 31, 2006). No Applause-Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0865479586. (Subscription required (help)).
  3. ^ a b c d e Kenrick, John. "A History of The Musical: Vaudeville". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  4. ^ Burke, James (September 2, 2003). An Invisible Object (Connections3 DVD). Ambrose Video Publishing, Inc.
  5. ^ Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (October 8, 2006). "Vaudeville History". Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. London: Routledge. pp. xi–xxxii.
  6. ^ Thompson, Robert J. (February 4, 2014). "Television in the United States". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  7. ^ Tosches, Nick (2002). Where Dead Voices Gather. Boston: Back Bay Books. p. 11. ISBN 0-316-89537-7.
  8. ^ Grosch, Nils; Widmaier, Tobias, eds. (2010). Lied und populäre Kultur/ Song and Popular Culture (in German). Münster: Waxman Verlag GmbH. p. 233. ISBN 978-383092395-4. ... the widespread influence Dutch minstrels and comedians had with their musical and dramaturgical idiom on vaudeville, the circuit of traveling tent shows. ... The Black Crook of 1866 ... already displayed a mixture of "ersatz German romanticism" (Gerald Bordman) and burlesque elements inherited from the Dutch character shows ...
  9. ^ "vaudeville | entertainment". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  10. ^ Gilbert, Douglas (1940). American Vaudeville: Its Life and Times. Whittlesey House.
  11. ^ Webwerks. "The New York Tribune: Vaudeville". Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  12. ^ "Vaudeville: About Vaudeville". PBS American Masters.
  13. ^ Erdman, Andrew L. (January 20, 2007). Blue Vaudeville. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0786431151.
  14. ^ Williams, William H. A. (2002). "Green Again: Irish-American Lace-Curtain Satire". New Hibernia Review. JSTOR 20557792.
  15. ^ Barrett, James (2012). The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multi-Ethnic City. New York: The Penguin Press. p. 107.
  16. ^ a b Barrett, James (2012). The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multi-Ethnic City. New York: The Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0143122807.
  17. ^ Mintz, Lawrence E. (1996). "Humor and Ethnic Stereotypes in Vaudeville and Burlesque". MELUS. Published by The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS). 21 (4): 19. doi:10.2307/467640. ISSN 0163-755X. Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  18. ^ a b Wittke, Carl (1952). "The Immigrant Theme on the American Stage". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. doi:10.2307/1892181. JSTOR 1892181.
  19. ^ Bayor, Ronald (1996). The New York Irish. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 143–145.
  20. ^ Barrett, James (2012). The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multi-Ethnic City. New York: The Penguin Press. p. 159.
  21. ^ a b c Barrett, James (2012). The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multi-Ethnic City. New York: The Penguin Press. pp. 166–167.
  22. ^ Barrett, James (2012). The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multi-Ethnic City. New York: The Penguin Press. p. 108.
  23. ^ Kenrick, John. "History of Musical Film, 1927-30: Part II"., 2004, accessed May 17, 2010
  24. ^ Senelick, Laurence (October 22, 2007). Wilmeth, Don B., ed. Cambridge Guide to American Theatre (Second ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 480. ISBN 978-0521835381. (Subscription required (help)).
  25. ^ "The Ancient Art of Falling DownVaudeville Cinema between Hollywood and China". MCLC Resource Center. 2017-08-29. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  26. ^ Hilmes, Michele (February 12, 2010). Only Connect: A Cultural History of Broadcasting in the United States. Cengage Learning. p. 97. ISBN 978-0495570516. ... it is in the form of the variety show itself, network radio's offspring, that we can see the influence of vaudeville on radio most clearly. From The Rudy Vallee Show through Jack Benny and Bing Crosby to TV programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers, Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, and Late Night with David Letterman, we can see strong remnants of vaudeville's typical variety act structure. Combining a host/announcer with comedy sketches, musical performances, dance, monologues, and satiric banter--sometimes even animal acts--the variety show takes myriad forms today. The vaudeville circuit of touring companies and local theatres is gone, but it lives on electronically.
  27. ^ Henry, William A., III (1989-05-15). "Theater: Bowing Out with a Flourish". TIME. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  28. ^ "Bill Irwin: Clown Prince". Great Performances. Season 32. December 15, 2004. PBS. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  29. ^ White, James (June 7, 2014). "WWE NXT report 6-6 Tampa". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  30. ^ “First International Vaudeville Con Food Drive For Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center”. Broadway World. Retrieved November 15, 2018
  31. ^ “First-ever Vaudville Con coming to Pawcatuck Friday”. The Westerly Sun. Retrieved November 15, 2018
  32. ^ "Vaudeville Lives: The world's largest Vaudeville memorabilia collection has been donated to the UA". UA News. February 25, 2009.
  33. ^ Kibler, M. Alison (April 1992). "The Keith/Albee Collection: The Vaudeville Industry, 1894–1935". From Books at Iowa 56.

External links


Balto (1919 – March 14, 1933) was a Siberian husky and sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease. Balto was named after the Sami explorer Samuel Balto. Balto rested at the Cleveland Zoo until his death on March 14, 1933, at the age of 14. After he died, his body was stuffed and kept in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where it remains today.

Comédie en vaudevilles

The comédie en vaudevilles (French: [kɔmedi ɑ̃ vodvil]) was a theatrical entertainment which began in Paris towards the end of the 17th century, in which comedy was enlivened through lyrics using the melody of popular vaudeville songs.

Fred Sanborn

Fred Sanborn (November 23, 1899 – March 9, 1961) was an American vaudeville performer, actor, and musician. He was most notable as a member of Ted Healy's comedy troupe Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen (a group which included the trio that became the famous Three Stooges).

Sanborn was frequently featured in the group's early vaudeville acts, as well as their 1929 Broadway show, A Night in Venice (the first of Sanborn's three Broadway musicals/revues). However, after starring with Healy, Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Shemp Howard in the Rube Goldberg film Soup to Nuts—for which Sanborn also wrote a song—he left the group, preferring to concentrate on his music rather than become known as a "Healyite". Sanborn's character was a quasi-Chaplinesque little fellow (completely with the lopsided walk) who is never heard speaking, preferring to whisper in other characters' ears while waggling his thick eyebrows. He popped up in films sporadically throughout the 1930s-1940s- two with Olsen and Johnson- often in small, unspeaking comedy roles; a rare exception was his final film, the 1945 musical comedy Night Club Girl, in which he acts as an emcee and does have several lines (in addition to doing his xylophone routine).

His last film/TV performance was as a comedian on The Ed Wynn Show in 1950.

Gertie the Dinosaur

Gertie the Dinosaur is a 1914 animated short film by American cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay. It is the earliest animated film to feature a dinosaur. McCay first used the film before live audiences as an interactive part of his vaudeville act; the frisky, childlike Gertie did tricks at the command of her master. McCay's employer William Randolph Hearst curtailed McCay's vaudeville activities, so McCay added a live-action introductory sequence to the film for its theatrical release. McCay abandoned a sequel, Gertie on Tour (c. 1921), after producing about a minute of footage.

Although Gertie is popularly thought to be the earliest animated film, McCay had earlier made Little Nemo (1911) and How a Mosquito Operates (1912). The American J. Stuart Blackton and the French Émile Cohl had experimented with animation even earlier; Gertie being a character with an appealing personality distinguished McCay's film from these earlier "trick films". Gertie was the first film to use animation techniques such as keyframes, registration marks, tracing paper, the Mutoscope action viewer, and animation loops. It influenced the next generation of animators such as the Fleischer brothers, Otto Messmer, Paul Terry, and Walt Disney. John Randolph Bray unsuccessfully tried to patent many of McCay's animation techniques and is said to have been behind a plagiarized version of Gertie that appeared a year or two after the original. Gertie is the best preserved of McCay's films—some of which have been lost or survive only in fragments—and has been preserved in the U.S. Library of Congress' National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 1991.

Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers (born Virginia Katherine McMath; July 16, 1911 – April 25, 1995) was an American actress, dancer, and singer. She is known for her starring role in Kitty Foyle (1940), but is best remembered for performing in RKO's musical films (partnered with Fred Astaire) on stage, radio and television, throughout much of the 20th century.

Born in Independence, Missouri, and raised in Kansas City, Rogers and her family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, when she was nine years old. After winning a 1925 Charleston dance contest that launched a successful vaudeville career, she gained recognition as a Broadway actress for her debut stage role in Girl Crazy. This success led to a contract with Paramount Pictures, which ended after five films. Rogers had her first successful film role as a supporting actress in 42nd Street (1933). Throughout the 1930s, Rogers made nine films with Astaire, among which were some of her biggest successes, such as Swing Time (1936) and Top Hat (1935). After two commercial failures with Astaire, Rogers began to branch out into dramatic films and comedies. Her acting was well received by critics and audiences, and she became one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1940s. Her performance in Kitty Foyle (1940) won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.Rogers remained successful throughout the 1940s and at one point was Hollywood's highest-paid actress, but her popularity had peaked by the end of the decade. She reunited with Astaire in 1949 in the commercially successful The Barkleys of Broadway. After an unsuccessful period through the 1950s, Rogers made a successful return to Broadway in 1965, playing the lead role in Hello, Dolly!. More lead roles on Broadway followed, along with her stage directorial debut in 1985 on an off-Broadway production of Babes in Arms. Rogers also made television acting appearances until 1987. In 1992, Rogers was recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors. She died of a heart attack in 1995, at the age of 83.

Rogers is associated with the phrase "backwards and in high heels", the title of her memoir, attributed to Bob Thaves' Frank and Ernest 1982 cartoon with the caption "Sure he [Astaire] was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did...backwards and in high heels". This phrase is sometimes incorrectly attributed to Ann Richards, who used it in her keynote address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention.A Republican and a devout Christian Scientist, Rogers was married five times, with all of her marriages ending in divorce; she had no children. During her long career, Rogers made 73 films, and her musical films with Fred Astaire are credited with revolutionizing the genre. Rogers was a major movie star during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and is often considered an American icon. She ranks number 14 on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars list of female stars of classic American cinema.

Jack Albertson

Harold Albertson (June 16, 1907 – November 25, 1981) professionally known as Jack Albertson, was an American actor, comedian, dancer and singer who also performed in vaudeville. Albertson is known for his role as John Cleary in The Subject Was Roses (1968), for which he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971); Manny Rosen in The Poseidon Adventure (1972); and Ed Brown in the television sitcom Chico and the Man (1974–78). For his contributions to the television industry, Albertson was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1977 at 6253 Hollywood Boulevard.

Larry Fine

Louis Feinberg (October 5, 1902 – January 24, 1975), known professionally as Larry Fine, was an American actor, comedian, violinist, and boxer, who is best known as a member of the comedy act the Three Stooges.

List of opera genres

This is a glossary list of opera genres, giving alternative names.

"Opera" is an Italian word (short for "opera in musica"); it was not at first commonly used in Italy (or in other countries) to refer to the genre of particular works. Most composers used more precise designations to present their work to the public. Often specific genres of opera were commissioned by theatres or patrons (in which case the form of the work might deviate more or less from the genre norm, depending on the inclination of the composer). Opera genres are not exclusive. Some operas are regarded as belonging to several.

Milton Berle

Milton Berle (born Mendel Berlinger; Yiddish: ‏מענדעל בערלינגער‎; July 12, 1908 – March 27, 2002) was an American comedian and actor. Berle's career as an entertainer spanned over 80 years, first in silent films and on stage as a child actor, then in radio, movies and television. As the host of NBC's Texaco Star Theater (1948–55), he was the first major American television star and was known to millions of viewers as "Uncle Miltie" and "Mr. Television" during TV's golden age.

New Age Vaudeville

New Age Vaudeville was an American professional theater troupe that was part of the Chicago comedy boom of the 1980s.

Palace Theatre (New York City)

The Palace Theatre is a Broadway theatre located at 1564 Broadway (at West 47th Street) in midtown Manhattan, New York City. From 1913 through about 1929, the Palace attained legendary status among vaudeville performers as the flagship of the Keith–Albee organization, and the most desired booking in the country. With 1,610 seats (as of 2018) spread over three levels, it is one of the largest theaters on Broadway, housing primarily large musicals and concert engagements. On September 16, 2018, following the run of SpongeBob SquarePants, the theater closed for an extensive renovation, and is expected to reopen in 2021.

Paul Garner

Paul Albert "Mousie" Garner (July 31, 1909 – August 8, 2004) was an American actor. Garner earned his nickname by assuming the role of a shy, simpering jokester. Garner was one of the last actors still doing shtick from vaudeville, and has been referred to as "The Grand Old Man Of Vaudeville."

The Vaudeville Years

The Vaudeville Years of Fleetwood Mac 1968 to 1970 (or just The Vaudeville Years) is an album by British blues rock band Fleetwood Mac, released in 1998. It was a compilation of outtakes and unreleased tracks from the band's early line up, none of which had previously seen the light of day officially. Available on double vinyl LP and double CD, it came with a booklet of extensive notes and anecdotes (written by Martin Celmins), and was the companion volume to Show-Biz Blues: Fleetwood Mac 1968–70, which was released a few years later.

The release included songs originally intended for the second unreleased disc of Then Play On. These included tracks recorded by Jeremy Spencer. There was also a single live performance of "Oh Well" with the rest of the collection filled out with various alternative takes of familiar Green, Spencer and Kirwan songs, including an alternative take of Peter Green's "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)"."The Vaudeville Years" was reissued in 2008 as a double CD set with a single DVD, but without the extensive sleeve notes.

Théâtre du Vaudeville

The Théâtre du Vaudeville (today the Gaumont Opéra cinema) was a theatre in Paris. It opened on 12 January 1792 on rue de Chartres. Its directors, Piis and Barré, mainly put on "petites pièces mêlées de couplets sur des airs connus", including vaudevilles.

After it was burned down in 1838, the Vaudeville temporarily based itself on boulevard de Bonne-Nouvelle before in 1841 setting up in the Salle de la Bourse on the Place de la Bourse in the 2e arrondissement. This building was demolished in 1869. Eugène Labiche and Henri Meilhac put on several of their works there, and it also hosted Jules Verne's play Onze jours de siège (1861). Other writers whose works were put on there were Edmond Gondinet, Alexandre Bisson, Théophile Marion Dumersan, Jean-François Bayard, Narcisse Fournier and Gaston Arman de Caillavet.

In 1852, La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils was put on here. For the first time in the era, there were over 100 consecutive performances. Verdi was in the audience at this theatre and wrote La Traviata (1853) based on the play.

From 1866 to 1868, a new Théâtre du Vaudeville was built on boulevard des Capucines, at the corner of Rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin, in the 9e arrondissement. In 1927, this building was acquired by Paramount and transformed into the cinema it is today, under the name the Paramount Opéra then (from 31 October 2007) the Gaumont Opéra. It has seven auditoria and is served by Opéra on the Paris Metro.

Vaudeville, Meurthe-et-Moselle

Vaudeville is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.


Vaudeville-le-Haut is a commune in the Meuse department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.

Vaudeville Theatre

The Vaudeville Theatre is a West End theatre on the Strand in the City of Westminster. As the name suggests, the theatre held mostly vaudeville shows and musical revues in its early days. It opened in 1870 and was rebuilt twice, although each new building retained elements of the previous structure. The current building opened in 1926, and the capacity is now 690 seats. Rare thunder drum and lightning sheets, together with other early stage mechanisms, survive in the theatre.


Vaudéville is a commune in the Vosges department in Grand Est in northeastern France.

Will Rogers

William Penn Adair Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was an American stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator from Oklahoma. He was a Cherokee citizen born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.

Known as "Oklahoma's Favorite Son", Rogers was born to a Cherokee family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma). As an entertainer and humorist, he traveled around the world three times, made 71 films (50 silent films and 21 "talkies"), and wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns.By the mid-1930s Rogers was hugely popular in the United States, its leading political wit and the highest paid of Hollywood film stars. He died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.Rogers's vaudeville rope act led to success in the Ziegfeld Follies, which in turn led to the first of his many movie contracts. His 1920s syndicated newspaper column and his radio appearances increased his visibility and popularity. Rogers crusaded for aviation expansion and provided Americans with first-hand accounts of his world travels. His earthy anecdotes and folksy style allowed him to poke fun at gangsters, Prohibition, politicians, government programs, and a host of other controversial topics in a way that was appreciated by a national audience, with no one offended. His aphorisms, couched in humorous terms, were widely quoted: "I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat."

Rogers even provided an epigram on his most famous epigram:

When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: "I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident [sic] like." I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.

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