ENTERTAINING THE AMERICAN ARMY
ENTERTAINING THE AMERICAN ARMY
THE AMERICAN ARMY
The American Stage and Lyceum
in the World War
JAMES W. EVANS
Dramatis Producer a.iC Coach
CAPTAIN GARDNER L. HARDING
Attached to General Pershing's Staff at Chaumont
Intelligence Division of the War Department
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY NEYSA MCMEIN
ANITA PARKHURST AND ETHEL RUNDQUIST
NEW YORK: 347 MADISON AVBNUB
COPYRIGHT, 1921; BY
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF
YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATIONS
ALL THOSE WHO SERVED AS ENTERTAINERS
WITH THE AMERICAN ARMY
No doubt every book published should have a dedica-
tion to the public, for by them it will be read and by them
judged, but in presenting this particular history in narra-
elseif (getClientWidth() > 430)
tive form, one must realize that while it may bring much
interest to the general reading public, it belongs by its
very title to those women and men who wisely saw the
writing on the wall and indifferently turned their backs
upon their everyday life with its creature comforts, never
counting the cost nor exaggerating the danger, but gladly
joining the great crusade.
History repeats itself! But in this present book there
is no repetition for, search as we may through the annals
of past wars, we can find no precedent for a work of this
nature. In very fact, when the opportunity came and the
idea grew into a resolve, those who believed in the gospel
of recreation realized that by the creation of just this
particular type of amusement, an anachronism was being
inaugurated. But by the very nature of its novelty it
found a hearty response in the minds of the men in the
camps in this country and overseas, and by its inherent
opportunity for service it commended itself to the women
and men who had no other chance of showing how solidly
they stood behind the representatives of their country.
From its very moment of inception it carried with it
the support of two men, without whose whole-hearted
assistance it must have failed Mr. William Sloane, Chair-
man of the War Work Council of the Young Men's Christian
Association, and Dr. John R. Mott, its General Secretary.
Through its early stormy days, when the skeptical and
the timid hesitated at the very innovation of the proposi-
tion, they stood absolutely convinced of the power of
entertainment, and by the very authority of their coagency
carried with them the more doubtful and hesitating.
Where shall we turn for an adventure more novel than
that undertaken by those valiant people who crossed the
seas that they might bring maybe the last smile to those
"going over the top," that they might be perhaps the first
"real American" girl the doughboy had seen since he
sailed from the land of Home?
Into the theatre or the cow-barn, to the tent or station
platform, they brought the gospel of laughter, and even
while the shells burst over their heads or whizzed by like
rent cloth, the song of sentiment soared like a wave of
comfort to tired and homesick men.
No sympathy need be extended to those who went
only to those who did not see the opportunity to get out
of themselves and learn the joy of losing, that others might
be the gainers, the joy of relinquishing a real money-making
position and going out to meet whatever came, so that
when the roll call is answered they will not be ashamed
to answer to their names.
No record, however complete, could tell all the indi-
vidual sacrifices that were made, or the story of the sol-
diers' appreciation, but this volume is offered as a lasting
tribute to those who went, that their contribution may
be recorded and their offering chronicled.
That the Young Men's Christian Association was priv-
ileged to be the instrument through which this presentation
was made it feels duly grateful, for the recollection of this
service will last when others may be forgotten.
To each and every man and woman who did his and
her part in this work and received an honorable discharge,
this book carries a greeting from those whose privilege
it was to be the instrument through which this service
was consummated. The work was an inspiration and the
service rendered adds the only comment necessary.
THOMAS S. McLANE.
I. THE PERFORMERS ENTER 1
II. THE MEN BEHIND THE SCENES 6
III. THE ADVANCE GUARD IN FRANCE 11
IV. THE PIONEER COMPANY 17
V. THE TROUPERS IN ACTION 22
VI. THE AMES-SOTHERN RECONNAISSANCE 35
VII. THE STAGE CALLED TO ARMS 42
VIII. A MESSAGE FROM FRANCE 51
IX. THE AMERICAN STAGE ANSWERS 60
X. A STOCK COMPANY UNDER FIRE 66
XI. A REGULAR AMERICAN GIRL 74
XII. THE OVER THERE THEATRE LEAGUE ENTERS. ... 80
XIII. A BOMBARDMENT OF SONGS AND FUN 88
XIV. STRENUOUS DAYS FOR THE TROUPERS 101
XV. KEEPING STEP WITH THE DOUGHBOYS 109
XVI. PUSHING UP TO THE FRONT 121
XVII. KNIGHTS AND LADIES 134
XVIII. Two MAKERS OF ENTERTAINMENT HISTORY 143
XIX. SPREADING JOY ALONG THE LINE 156
XX. SOLDIER SHOWS AFTER THE ARMISTICE 164
XXI. BROADWAY SUCCESSES ON THE BIG CIRCUIT 180
XXII. FAMOUS CASINOS IN A NEW ROLE 185
XXIII. ENTERTAINMENT IN CAMPS AT HOME 193
XXIV. SINGING THEIR WAY TO VICTORY 201
XXV. ENLISTING EMINENT LECTURES 213
XXVI. "MOVIES TONIGHT!" 223
APPENDIX PERSONNEL. . 240
The greatest books of the War have not yet been written.
While we now have contemporary records of incalculable
value, upon which many future judgments will be based,
the permanent histories of the conflict are yet to come.
The General Staffs of all the Governments are now pre-
paring their military records. The diplomatists have only
just begun to write their memoirs. The time has not
arrived when standard works, weighed in the scales of
historical perspective and scientific research, can begin
to give the final judgment of the world struggle.
It is with this understanding that we ask the privilege
of submitting to contemporary records a phase of Amer-
ica's participation in the World War which might other-
wise be overlooked. The purpose of this volume is to sketch
some of the adventures and experiences of what we may
term "our American troubadours," professional, semi-
professional, and amateur, who followed our Army through
the War; to show what the entertainers, the American
stage and lyceum, did in the World War; how they under-
took one of the most important missions in the struggle;
how, like true soldiers, they did their duty to the end.
While it is conceded that this was one of the most effec-
tive arms of the Army, and it is generally understood that
the American stage and lyceum performed a great service,
the magnitude of it is little known by the public. It is
realized that the American stage was one of the powerful
forces behind all the Liberty Loans, Red Cross drives,
and United War Work campaigns; that it was directly
instrumental in raising hundreds of millions of dollars;
that it recruited the entertainers from every available
source, including actors, lyceum entertainers, lecturers,
singers, musicians, song leaders, motion picture stars and
operators, vaudeville performers, soldier shows, stock
companies all merging in this achievement, which re-
quired the organization of play bureaus, costume and
scenic factories, transportation offices, and the leasing of
many of the most famous theatres in Europe; that it en-
rolled in its operations at home and abroad more than
35,000 men and women.
We trust that the experiences and anecdotes related
will give a new insight into the hearts and characters of
our soldiers. Names are named, not so much to honor
individuals, as to illustrate situations. The problem has
been to select. There are almost endless records of mirth
and misery, romance and tragedy, such as the bards of
other days used in ballad and epic. This volume is sub-
mitted, therefore, as a tribute not only to the entertainers,
but to the American Army one more contribution to the
records of America's fight for humanity in the World War.
The readers of this book are particularly indebted to Miss
Neysa McMein, Miss Anita Parkhurst, and Miss Ethel
Rundquist, entertainers all, who have brought the very
life of overseas service into these pages through the illustra-
tions they have contributed.
THE PERFORMERS ENTER
"They hare their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts. 1 '
As You LIKE IT.
It is June, 1917. An aristocratic old mansion at 31
Avenue Montaigne, Paris, is the- scene of the beginning.
This former palace, with its mass* of. sikiir.g, ry.icr.<;rs, and
satin upholstery, is transformed suddenly from its stately
elegance into the headquarters of our troubadours; a
movement through which those in America are to touch
hands with their sons along the battle fronts of France.
It is here that the pioneers start the plans for the stupen-
dous achievement. Six months later, we find the old
palace unable longer to hold the rapidly expanding forces,
and in December, 1917, all the splendor is left behind for
a commodious French office building at 12 Rue d'Aguesseau.
Let us climb to the fifth floor. It is reached by a wind-
ing marble stairway, or a personally conducted French
lift holding four people. The building is unfinished and
unheated and the plaster is oozing moisture. Mail sacks
block the hall and all the near-by office entrances, since
next door is the post office and mailing room.
Parties of Americans, just arriving from "home" or
coming in from the front, sweep along the hallway, hopping
over mail sacks and struggling with the knob of the door
leading to the two rooms known as the "Entertainment
Department" on this fifth floor. The office is horribly
crowded and grows worse week by week as the Americans
are coming on every ship, climbing the long staircase, tripping
over their hand-baggage, seeking information regarding
ENTERTAINING THE AMERICAN ARMY
their destinations, demanding to be sent right out to the
front line, and finally waving good-by as they disappear
with their red permits and start off on their individual
So great did the office and other activities become that
it was found necessary to move again to larger quarters and
take over a house on 10 Rue de TElysee a street running
from Faubourg St. Honore down to the Champs Elysee,
along the west side of the President's palace. The Enter-
tainment Department was housed on the third floor and
given overflow rooms aver, the stables in the courtyard,
the driveway leading througli the house in regular French
fashion. . And tfre Department filled these quarters and
"cried for more."
What scenes there were through all the hours of the
day and late into the night rehearsals, tuning instruments,
trying out songs, costuming, playwriting, all going on at
the same time with the regular office routine of booking
and routing. You met doughboys, medieval ladies, knights
in armor, and French widows, hurrying to rehearsals, up
and down the carved and frescoed marble stairway. Out on
the Rue de PElysee big army trucks were drawn up to the
curb, loading and unloading musical instruments, and the
sidewalks. were' covered with bass drums, banjos, trom-
bones, and violins.
This, then, is the story of how the American stage and
lyceum sent out an army of volunteers which finally num-
bered more than 35,000. It tells how they furnished enter-
tainment in cantonment and training camp, in cities and
towns, in shipyards and ports of embarkation for more
than 4,000,000 men who at one time and another passed
through the great war organization of the American Army;
how they followed the A. E. F. through the campaigns and
out to the battlefields; and how they fought and won
THE PERFORMERS ENTER 3
continuous battles against a common enemy gassed,
bombed, and under fire in the greatest crusade in the
Let us line up our forces for review: The first line is
composed of the 1,064 who were sent from America over-
seas to France and the 300 recruited from the French;
the second line consists of the recruits whom they trained
in the American Army in France, 4,000 soldier-actors, who
in turn coached 11,000 more from their own ranks for
soldier shows; the third line comprises the 200 trained
song leaders with their forces augmented by 1,000 recruits;
the fourth line brings the 1,500 enrolled in the motion
picture service; the fifth line presents the 200 lecturers
augmented by 500 more recruits and volunteers; the sixth
line includes the costumers, theatre managers, general
staff, and transportation service, over 300 more the field
strength now exceeds 20,000. Behind this are the reserve
entertainers in America, working in the home camps or in
the War Fund drives, numbering 15,000, bringing the
fighting strength to 35,000.
In estimating the full service of the profession in the
foregoing forces, it is necessary to mention the American
theatre owners who opened their houses for war service
in whatever capacity needed; the actors working from all
the stages in the loans; the managers delivering personal
appeals, and purchasing bonds in the millions; the solicitors
working in the aisles of the theatres. More than 25,000
theatres (motion picture and legitimate) throughout America
became the central points for all the organized efforts.
It is impossible to estimate the huge funds raised in the
theatres. Such favorites as Mary Pickford, Douglas
Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and William S. Hart alone
raised more than $17,200,000 on their tours through the
country. It is further safe to state that there probably
was not a professional or semi-professional entertainer in
America who did not give his services either among the
4 ENTERTAINING THE AMERICAN ARMY
soldiers in their camps or at benefit performances during
the War. They became one of the most powerful arms
of the Government and "did their bit" in the true tradi-
tion of the profession.
It is to the war experiences of the troupers 1,064 strong
who went to France, and their augmented forces, that
this volume must largely confine itself, with occasional
reference to those who served at home. To put through
this tremendous task there was organized the biggest
entertainment enterprise in the history of amusements:
It gave 109,794 separate performances to the soldiers,
with an approximate attendance overseas of 87,000,000
and more than 40,000,000 at home.
It gave overseas 157,000 movie shows aggregating over
8,000,000 feet, or more than 1,500 miles, of film. The
aggregate attendance at these movie shows alone (between
April, 1918, and July, 1919) was over 94,000,000 at 5,261
different places. It is estimated that in the United States
and overseas the gross attendance at motion picture shows
It gave performances by stock companies and perform-
ances by soldier shows throughout the area of the Amer-
It organized four great "play factories" which were
centers for rehearsals and costume equipment. It im-
provised plays and vaudeville acts.
It provided overseas alone 23,000 costumes and ac-
cessories, 18,000 musical instruments, and 450,000 pieces
of sheet music.
It took over and ran in the leave areas and important
cities behind the fighting line the largest circuit of theatres,
casinos, and amusement halls ever administered under
The adventures of these modern troubadours, if each
THE PERFORMERS ENTER 5
could be persuaded to relate his own experiences, would
give a deep insight into the most human side of the War.
There would be tales aboard ship, nights on submarined
seas, the first hours ashore at the base ports, the journeys
into the bleeding heart of France, the last march on the
road to battle.
From trench to stevedore camp, from the leave areas
to the great supply centers, in dugouts, ruined chateaux,
cathedrals, barns, village squares, and trucks backed
against barns, these couriers of cheerfulness and sanity
and courage, the troubadours of our time, sang the Amer-
ican Army on to victory, the splendid consummation of
its mission across the sea.
Throughout the whole range of the profession, from the
Shakespearian actor to the burlesque comedian, from the
classical singer to the juggler, the ventriloquist, and the
chalkologist, no one could set a limit to their enthusiasm
or their devotion. One little jazz soubrette, whose lightning
dance steps brought her to complete exhaustion after a
single performance in America, coming across a trainload
of forlorn, show-hungry soldiers, gave this amazing dance
eighteen times at different sections of the train, and then
exclaimed, "All right, go on with the War!"
But let us now observe how this crusade was put into
operation and become acquainted with the forces behind it.
THE MEN BEHIND THE SCENES
"Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter."
KING HENRY V.
The cast of characters in this dramatic invasion is so
great that if given in the method of the profession it would
include, directly or indirectly, every celebrated name on
the American stage. It will be necessary, therefore, to
select the characters as they appear and watch them in
action, that we may judge the work of many from the
experiences of a few.
It will be well, however, to stop a moment behind the
scenes and meet some of those who planned, developed,
and kept this continuous campaign of entertainment in
operation throughout the War. Here in America we find
the forces of the Red Triangle, under the direction of the
National War Work Council, as the motive power behind
the whole achievement, with Mr. William Sloane, an able
and progressive administrator, as its chairman. We meet
Thomas S. McLane, as Chairman of the Overseas Enter-
tainment Bureau, in "command" of the recruiting and
movement of the entertainment army across the seas to
France; we meet James Forbes, the dramatist, with his
able lieutenant, John Briscoe, in command of the forces
of the Over There Theatre League.
Those in France, we find engaged in the constantly
expanding headquarters described in the preceding chap-
ter. Here is the "Director General" of all the operations
of the A. E. F.-YMCA, Edward C. Carter, who entered
the War in India at its outbreak in 1914, followed the
THE MEN BEHIND THE SCENES 7
British-Indian armies into the campaigns in Mesopotamia,
came to the seat of operations in London, and, upon Amer-
ica's entrance into the War, went to Paris, extending full
cooperation in any and every capacity in which the organ-
ization which he represented might be able to serve.
We have looked into the crowded headquarters of the
Entertainment Department, from which we found the
operations of the Troupers being directed. Here, in com-
mand during the big campaigns were a progressive business
man from the Midd e West, Charles Steele; Walter H.
Johnson, Jr.; and one of the most lovable personalities in
the whole army, A. M. Beatty, a man who probably knows
more actors intimately than any man who went to France.
With all these men and many more we shall be face to face
in the coming chapters.
The First Division arrived in France in June, 1917,
and settled in its training areas around Gondrecourt by
the middle of July. By the end of October the other di-
visions of America's first contingent began to arrive. Within
a few days of each other, early in November, the Second,
Twenty-Sixth, and Forty-Second Divisions landed in France,
and went into training quarters. The Forty-First Division
arrived at the end of the year, and by January, 1918,
there were something over 190,000 American soldiers in
France, of whom about two thirds were combat troops.
The Second Division, including the Marines, went into
quarters around Bourmont; the Twenty-Sixth, the Yankee
Division, composed of the National Guard units from the
New England States, spread out around Neuf chateau;
while the Forty-Second, the Rainbow Division, made up
of National Guardsmen from all over the country, moved
into the Rolampont Area between Chaumont and Langres.
These were pioneers of the commonwealth of fighting
Americans from whom the world expected so much. They
settled in an area something less than fifty miles in diameter
around the newly founded General Headquarters at Chan-
8 ENTERTAINING THE AMERICAN ARMY
mont, occupying in all over one hundred and fifty villages
and towns, strung out for the most part along the lines
of communication, but concentrated here and there in
centers outnumbering the neighboring French villages five
and even ten to one.
Hard work and indomitable cheerfulness carried the
Americans a long way through the almost unrelieved mo-
notony of their routine in this environment. The courtesy
and hospitality of the French inhabitants aided enor-
mously in staving off homesickness and keeping up the
spirits of the troops. But the American soldier is the
most social human being in the whole world and he soon
began to realize, amid the dreary rain and mud of the fall
and winter, how completely he was cut off from home.
The mails had failed. The leave system was still undevel-
oped. Leisure time after work became a thing rather to
dread than to enjoy.
Our action begins here. The American soldier felt free
to express his real feelings he wanted to hear American
voices, American jokes, American laughter, and American
songs, to see American girls, American movies, American
shows. In September and October, Chief Secretary Carter
had cabled to New York urging that an organization be
set up immediately to fill the demands of the soldiers for
entertainment. Every army in the War had been forced
to meet this same situation.
Already "back home" in America the profession was
beginning to take up the call. Hundreds of volunteers
were performing among the American camps and the
ranks soon swelled into thousands. Before the first de-
mands from overseas were heard, in September, 1917,
Dr. Paul Pierson had brought a long experience in man-
aging Chautauquas to the task of covering the home camps
with entertainment troupes and had established, under
Mr. William Sloane, a central booking office in New York.
The problem now arose of finding the right man for
THE MEN BEHIND THE SCENES 9
the important task of sending an army of entertainers
overseas on a scale sufficient to cope with the vast need
of the rapidly expanding Army in France.
One day early in October, 1917, there came into Mr.
Sloane's office a man on his way to Washington to volunteer
for war work. On Mr. Sloane's desk lay a cablegram from
Paris, reiterating the extreme need of entertainment for
the men in France, which he handed to the caller, and
thus Thomas McLane became director of what was soon
to be the greatest entertainment enterprise in the world's
history. The following twenty months wrote a new tra-
dition into the history of America's entertainment.
Mr. McLane first organized a successful campaign for
"that spare ukelele on the top shelf." He searched the
country, in other words, for new and secondhand instru-
ments, sheet music, plays, and sketches. This was but
one of his jobs. He then organized a "drive" to reach
every professional and amateur in America, to impress
them with the need on the other side of every eligible
entertainer. And the volunteers responded by the thou-
sands by letters, by telegrams, and in person all the
way from eminent actors down to stage-struck girls and
the elevator boy who wanted to play Hamlet.
From four to six every afternoon he "received" hopeful
talent. For months a quiet New York home resounded
to the clatter of jazz-dancing feet, the wheeze of sax-
ophones, the chirping of lady singers, the gusto of male
quartets, the patter of monologuists in all dialects and
known forms of speech all to save the soldier from a
career of crime. There were times when life for Mr. McLane
was one long round of tragediennes telling him wrathfully
that "The Hun Is at the Gate," large ladies in white singing
"Good-By Summer" (in January); and breezy soubrettes
always leaving for the "Darktown Strutters' Ball."
10 ENTERTAINING THE AMERICAN ARMY
Mr. McLane looked for three main qualifications: First,
the ability to entertain; second, a watertight list of recom-
mendations; and third, personality as tested by his own
instinct. Using these standards, he traveled out to Chicago