Banjo Eyes: Eddie Cantor and the Birth of Modern Stardom

By Herbert G. Goldman | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

THE CLIMB

"There's No Business Like Show Business" -- Irving Berlin

Vaudeville was born of variety acts presented in saloons and beer gardens in the nineteenth century. When it died, after almost half a century ( 1881-1928), its acts returned to those saloons, now called "nightclubs," shedding the wholesome cloak that vaudeville had given them and signaling the start of a new, harsher era.

At its peak ( 1900-19), vaudeville employed close to ten thousand people as dramatic actors, sketch artists, monologists, singers, dancers, animal trainers, acrobats, musicians, and magicians. Thousands more were employed as stagehands, ushers, concession sellers, washroom attendants, and house managers. The institution, like the jobs, is gone. Even the nightclubs have passed into history.

A vaudeville act might consist of one person, or two dozen. It might consist of anything and qualify as vaudeville, providing that it entertained and did not offend popular mores. Vaudeville was entertainment for the masses -- the genteel middle class, as opposed to the "rough element" after men like Pastor, Proctor, and Keith brought it up from its beer garden roots. Drinking was prohibited, civility encouraged. Vaudeville, in essence, was a "wholesome" marriage between theatre and cafe-saloon entertainment -- a grease-paint icon of America between the Spanish-American War and the start of the Jazz Age. The new morals, a demand for faster living, and the outlooks of the '20s caused a new generation to leave it for the smarter world of jazz records and for shows with scores by Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, and other "sophisticates" of the new Broadway. The librettos of these shows incorporated sexual and other mores that the world of vaudeville would have deemed "offensive" to its audiences. Vaudeville waned during the Jazz Age and was dead before the age of swing.

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Banjo Eyes: Eddie Cantor and the Birth of Modern Stardom
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue - More Than Meets the Eyes xi
  • Chapter 1 - The Bubba and Her Itchik 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Turning 20
  • Chapter 3 - The Climb 36
  • Chapter 4 - The Follies 57
  • Chapter 5 - Of Equity and Shuberts 75
  • Chapter 6 - Kid Boots 94
  • Chapter 7 - Whoopee 116
  • Chapter 8 - Eyes on the Medium 135
  • Chapter 9 - The Peak 158
  • Chapter 10 - "Before L' Ma Performer. . ." 183
  • Chapter 11 - "We'Re Having a Baby" 212
  • Chapter 12 - The Other Madonna 229
  • Chapter 13 - Colgate Comedy Hour 256
  • Chapter 14 - "... and You Have to Give It All Back " 282
  • Epiloeue - "0ld Perf0rmers Never Die . . ." 308
  • Notes 313
  • Bibliography - Books by Eddie Cantor (chronologically Arranged) 316
  • Stageography 317
  • Filmography 356
  • Radiography 370
  • Televisionograpghy 377
  • Discography 381
  • Index 395
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