Belle Story was a star of opera, light opera and vaudeville who was most famous as one of the John Philip Sousa female singing stars frequently appearing at his concerts. The University of Arizona is most fortunate in having in our archives the personal scrapbooks and memorabilia of Belle Story which have recently been the focus of an undergraduate student research project so that for the first time a detailed account of the star's life in entertainment can be presented.
Bert Williams (New Providence, Nassau, British West Indies, November 12, 1874 - New York, March 4, 1922) was arguably the most important black star of early vaudeville and was the first to cross the color line and the first to work openly with white performers in a major Broadway venue. He was a Mason and was the first black man buried with Masonic honors. And yet he fell victim to the blatant discrimination that prevailed during his lifetime so that he was not even permitted to watch his own show sitting in the preferred seats in the audience.
Bessie Bonehill (Born Betsey Bonehill in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England, February 17, 1855 – died Portsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, August 21, 1902) performed in English music hall and American vaudeville and plays as a singing comedienne and male impersonator, dressing up in boots and jacket with a top hat and touring across America to great acclaim.
Blanche Ring (Boston, April 24, 1871 – Hollywood, January 13, 1961) was an early star of vaudeville and one of the most important early stars of Broadway musicals. When her superstar career dimmed in the 1920s she took on character roles in Hollywood movies.
American burlesque, as an institution, emerged in the late 1800s and evolved greatly up until the 1920s. Historically, a burlesque was a comedic work, and American burlesque originally reflected this traditional meaning of the term. In the United States and elsewhere, burlesques would parody well-known plays or operas, or significant political and social events (McNamara 2002, 5). Burlesques specifically targeted works of high culture, poking fun at these by resituating characters in more familiar settings (e.g.
George Burns (1896–1996) & Gracie Allen (c.1896–1964)
Flirtation acts were big in 1920s vaudeville, and some remained big into decades of television sitcoms. Burns & Allen became the best known of them because of their years of popularity in network radio, in movies and on television. Among their better contemporaries—and good friends—were Jesse Block (1900–1983) & Eva Sully (1902–1990).
One of the most important and yet forgotten acts in vaudeville was the comedy team of Butterbeans and Susie, who were really Jodie Edwards (July 19, 1893 – October 28, 1967) and Susie Edwards (born Susie Hawthorne, December, 1894 - died December 5th, 1963).
This series comprises contracts, photographs, handwritten scores, notes and clippings for stage "gags" and dialogues, and stage scripts by Keith and others. The photographs are mostly of Keith and his partner and companion, Maude Parker. There is a scrapbook of script notes and collected clippings of jokes, and several notebooks with script notes. The few handwritten musical scores are for performance "cues."
If Cliff Edwards (Hannibal, Missouri, June 14, 1895 - Hollywood, July 17, 1971) is remembered at all today it is for two reasons. First is his nickname during his career of Ukulele Ike and the second is his voice-over of the role of Jiminy Cricket in the Walt Disney cartoon Pinocchio of 1940 in which he introduced When You Wish Upon A Star, which was also used as one of Walt Disney's major themes for his television productions. But Edwards had a long and significant career besides this.
Dolly Connolly (born Chicago December 16, 1888 – died New York November 30, 1965) was perhaps the most beautiful of the famous ragtime singers and had marked out a steady career for herself in vaudeville when she met up and coming composer and accompanist Percy Wenrich, a handsome but rather shy and nerdy fellow who became a pop music genius.