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our o\«m stago, but both principals and chorus
did better with their limbs than with their
heads, Thoy only silenced criticism when they
danced. . . ."-"-■»"-"-

Earlier this aame year, February 1904, the final

tour of the Music riall company had brought V'eber and Fields

to San Francisco, in a double burlesque bill at the Grand

* San Francisc o Chronicle , December 17, 1905.
-:Hfr Ibid. Deconber 24, 1905.
-:HHj-Ibid. December 20, 1904.

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Burlesque 294

Opera House. A few sentences from the San Francisco Chroni -'

cle for February 9, 1904 indicate how clearly the heads and

shoulders — the heads chiefly - of this great comedy team

were above the other burlosquers of their times

"There is something about the Weber and Fields
performance \'\^ich 3rows upon the audiences. It
is a new and complete comedy act. Care and in-
finite pains do' not stop with providing bril-
liant accessories, but ^o on to make a full and
harmonious comedy.

'".Vhen the curtain wont dovm after the first part
it had to como up half a dozen times, and the
audience would not be satisfied until Charley
Ross, voicins the feelings of Weber and Fields,
who stood by in the make-up of marble statues,
had said some very nice things to the audience,
and Miss Russell had curtsied and e:cpre3sed her
great pleasure at being among those present.

" Whoop-De e-Doo in two ^^Thoops led the bill, the
second part being a clover burlesque of Cath-
erine. For real v/it and humor, exploded oppor-
tunely, the piece boats any of the Weber and
Fields shows v/hich had been seen here,

"V/eber and Fields are earnestly funny. If their
hiunor is slov/er to captivate than that of Kolb
and Dill, it is a great deal more satisfying
when it has you going."

A more encouraging emphasis upon the intelligence
of the period would bs given if this chapter could end at
this point yrithout the falsification of events; but the en-
tertainment on the eve of the great conflagration in 1906 was
a theatrical form, as old and outworn as the architecture
about to be consiimed. In February 1906, the Belasco and
Mayer stock company at the Alhambra Theatre announced the pro-
duction of The Black Crook . After the event, it becomes sym-
bolic that this old member of the burlesque family should


Burlesque 295

have been present at the holocaust; but the fire was ill-
timed. Ziegfeld was to give the extravaganza form an
extended lease on life.



(1907 • 1940)


"There is something about these F ollies which
affects one like a drug. Perhaps that is why
the average over-taxed business man likes them,
I cannot say I do, for they seem to stun and
perplex and narcotize the judgment .... It is
rather disconcerting to realize that ^vhile the
legitimate drama is being pushed, shoved, and
hustled by the 'Movies' to htimbly taking a back
scat, or going out of sight altogether,
Zio£;feld'3 Folllos grow more popular from yoar
to yoar,"

This quotation from tho Argonaut , March 27, 1915,
might well inscribe the pediment of the theatre for this whole
latter pariod, 1907 to the present day, T, B, M, became an
accepted abbreviation in the press for the tired business man.
Oceanic margins had very natxorally defined the geographical
expansion of the coiontry. The oconomic contradictions of pro-
duction and consumption in private finance, both nationally
and internationally, were to define, very artificially, the
possibilities of industrial expansion. Inevitably tired from
an excess of stock exchange g^Tiinastics, the business man was
to endure a ride on war boom inflation, steep as a f\inicular


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Bvirlesque 297

railv/ay, v;ith an equally precipitate descent to depression on
the other aide of the peak.

The approach to reality, to the all-central con-
raodity, was Toy i-iiOans of the labor saving device, with the
resultant speed up in raanuf acturo. The tempo of life
in gen&ral v/as geared up to conii'aodity production t the archi-
tecture v/as the sl-cyscraper; the music was a pseudo-Negroid
percussion; the great bull: of the literature was the easily
read, easily forgotten pulp magazine; the ontertaininent of
most people was the qxiickly comi'.iercialized cinema. The musi-
cal revues of Florenz Ziegf eld, George ^ATiite^and Earl Carroll,
were no doubt typical entertainment of the period; but, al-
though a development out of the popularly priced burlesque-
extravaganzas, they were priced inaccessibly beyond popular

In form, the Manhattan musical review contributed
nothing to the history of burlesque. The chief elements were
those initiated by The Black Crook production in 1868,
Tiaraed and plumed nudity vms the major characteristic.
Julian Mitchell, in Ziegf eld's employ, elevated the quality
of chorus routine; but the expansion of the satirical element
by Weber and Fields was again compressed to brief interstices
of irrelevant comedy.

The first of the large Nev/ York reviews reached San

Francisco in July 1915;



"From the V/inter Garden comes The Pasainp; Show
of 1912 , the production -vhich broke all records
for attendance at this famous place of enter-
tainment and repeated the triumphs in Chicago,
Boston, and Philadelphia. The local tv/o weeks'
engagement iviaich will ho played at the Cart The-
atre, hoglns Monday night, July 6. The Passing
Show is one of those spectacular affairs which
challenge description. There are seven acones
and the musical numbers follov; one another v/ith
remarkable dispatch. Ned Wayburn was the pro-
ducer, and it is agreed that he has never done
more excellent work in the way of arranging
novel numbers.

"Bits from nearly every important drs-jna and muv-
alcal play of the past season are joined togeth-
er in the plot. There are many characters and
each is recognized. The harem scene from Kismet
is empl077-ed to advantage. In this there is the
immense " swimming pool occupying the centre of
the harem, and into it plunge — not three girls
as in the cast of Kismet , but sixteen — and even
the gorgeous Trixio P"'riganza goes headlong into
the tank. Then there are brief scenes from
Bunty Pull s the Strings , Officer 666 , A Butter -
rTy' on " £He V.'hool, Oliv er Twist , Bought and Paid
For , Tho~~Roturn of Potor Grimm , and others • . . •

"Charles J. Ross, famous for twenty years as a
king of trav>:j3tyj Trixie Friganza, who needs
no introduction; Adelaide, the Bernhardt of the
ballet; J. J. Hughes, whose dances have become
international; Clarence Harvey, Texas Guinan,
Howard and Howard, Moon and Morris, and a chorus
of eighty, are included in this extraordinary
organization*" *

The aquatic episode is elaborated in the Argonaut
for July 12, 1913:

''(Enormously clever was Trixie Friganza' s) pink
gauze travesty on Gertrude Hoffman's 'Spring
Song,' with its abrupt aquatic finale."

Miss Friganza dominated the production. She had a

"rich, hearty voice"; she "supplied a steady stream of comic

«• Argonaut, July 5, 1913.

S'tn3 nj-Jr

BurlGsque 299

interlude"; her legs wore "plumply agile''; and her face was
to be observed closely, because like all "higher-up artists,
her whole being, mental and ph^'-sical, pours itself v;hole-
souledly into the represontation."*'*'

But it was neither the individual career of Trixie
Friganza nor Texas Guinan v/hich had to do with the future of
burlesque in America, The prophetic note in The Pas sing Sho w
of 1912 was the runway do^/n which the ''fair choral company"
paraded into tantalizing proximity with the audience. The
word "burlesque" was beginning to take on the meaning which
it has today in the strip-tease showhouses of the country.

This decadent direction of the future had still not
worn out all the evidence of a more intelligent past. The
contribution of V/eber and Fields to burlesque v/as still visi-
ble in this same Issue of Tlio Passing Show . David Warfield
had gone directly from the New York Music Hall to stardom at
Belasco's Theatre, Now that ho had gained international fame
in "heavy, legitimate" drama, it v/as his turn to be deflated,
as ho had deflated so many of his contemporaries.

"Among the ranks of the men (in The^ Pass ing
Show of 1912 ) there are many to commend. V/illie
Howard, however, is the one whoso ability stands
out most prominently in the mind. Ho gave a re-
markable imitation of ^,-7arf ield's Petor Grinim,
the vocal Intonations, with their occasional
c-urious tcndenc^r toward childisliness and the
falsetto shriokinoss that comes out in War-
field's moments of histrionic agitation, be-
ing particularl^r faithful. Willie Howard is
the kind of performer upon whose lightest ac-
cents the audience hangs devoutly...,"'^

* Argonaut , July 12, 1913.



B\irle3que "500

Willie Howard and his brother Eugene were to become
the constant luminaries of more than a decade of musical re-
views. In fact, to furnish ''glorifying" backgrounds for a
few brilliant oo:nedians, singers and dancers was to be the
chief function of the Ivlanhatban spectacles. The backgrounds,
so li-nportant in th - ir ovm time, are now forgotten in the enor-
mous vaults of the "old scenery'' v/arehouses in New York City;
or, more depressing and significant, in the cheap rooming-
houses where the aging vaii.dovillians and chorines are trying
to fill out their truncated professional lives.

The scenic background for The Pass ing S ho w of 1915
which played at the Cort Theatre in May 1914, is preserved in
a description in the Argonau t (May 9, 1914):

"Prom a scenic standpoint nothing of greater
magnitude than the reprodu.ction of the Capitol
Steps at ■■ashington has ever been shown on any
stage. A portion of that part of Broadway known
as Tango Sqtiare is also siaoxm pictorially. Here
are introduced every Icnoi.'m variety of the pres-
ent terpsichorean mania and a revival of the
old-fashioned cake-v/alk, v;hich has proved to be
one of the most popular numbers in the revue.
The spirit of the dance enters into the sky-
scrapers and at the finale of the scene the en-
tire company with its iDicturesque backing of
tall buildings are all moving to the strains
of the syncopation,"

The headlined performers before this architectural
replica included ''Conroy and Lc Maire, the inimitable black-
face comedians; Charlos and ?'IolliG King, travesty favorites,
v/ho appear to advantage as Broadway Jones and Peg O'My Hearty

Bxirlesque . 301

Elizabeth Goodall, one of New York's favorite comediennes;
''Taiting and Burt, singers and popularizers of songs,..; Mazie
King, the international toe-dancing favorite; Artie Mehlinger,
another San Francisco favorite; Teddy Wing and George Ford,
dancing experts; Henry Norinan, last seen locally in the David
Henderson extravaganza productions; Louise Bates, Laura Hamil-
ton, Ernest Plare, Charles Van, Leslie Powers, and others."''^

In 1916, Marilyn Miller and Alexis Kosloff emerged
to stardom. This same sdition of T he Passin g Show again
featured the Plov/ards in a burlesque Trilby * Howard Marsh,
Clarence Harvey, "and some others whose identity it was diffi-
cult to seize in the general whirl, did valuable fill-in
work,"-'5-;:-i»pixi-in-work" is the relevant term hero. The Weber
and Fields burlesque has been rodxiced to brief, interlarded
skits. These "fill-ins," short travesties and specialty num-
bers, if taken out of the context of thirty-six beautiful
girls, were nothing more than the disconnected elements of a
vaudeville prograjn.

Duping this interval between 1914 and 1916 the "rui>-
way" had become an integral part of burlesque. The big show
out of New York to reach San Francisco in 1915, was called
The \Vhirl of the World . There was the usual v;hirl of the
specialty acts; Exigene Howard ^vas still the accomplished foil
to his brother Willie's famous rejoinders. But chiefly,
there v/-as the "runway."

-X- Argonaut , May 9, 1914.
'JH:-Ib£d. lay 20, 1916.


,'• i*«t;w/'*""e^iri•


Burlesque 302

"The runway, greatly favored by a majority of
the inale aTidleiice, bridged the lower auditorium
from the stage to the rear, and at this vantage
point we v;ere permitted to see, at close range
the substantial charms of the vivacious Texas
Guinan, and to cast appraising glances at the
rose-lighted shapes of the chorus girls as they
passed singing along, ,. ,V/hen the show-girls went
through the usual process of parting v/ith their
wraps and revealing themselves, their skirts
v;ere narrow. Long, sheathing, trailing skirts
they were, and the pretty girls who v'ore them had
coquettishly adjusbod, doublo-plumed head-
dresses, which swayed rhytiimically and piqtiantly
as they v;cnt tlirough their showgirl paces,

"Seats n.jar the riuiv/ay included privileges, for
the fascinating Miss C-uinan bestowed upon
closely contiguous brld heads the rare distinc-
tion of a G-uinan kiss,,.. But although I admit
to finding the runway parade entertaining in
spite of its rather questionable taste, it seems
to me that made-up stage beauties at dose range
are rather daujitlng to a fastidious taste. V/e
can see the thick red paste on their llpS;, the
thick black aroTind their eyes, the smears of
enamel on their marble arms and shoulders....
But, at close range, how hard thoy seem to be
v;orking. One then that these gilded
toys, as they seem on the stage, arc human and
are sv^eating for a bare living,"

This quotation from the Argonaut for February 20,
1915, has a great deal of importance for this histcry, Alinost
all of the meaning that the word ''burlesque" has for people
in 1940 is inherent in this report by the Argonaut critic.
Strip-tease and rumway - there is no longer a theatrical form;
there is simply the frank display of a highlighted form.

The glare and noise in the staging of musical re-
ives, the tinseled innuendos of the disrobing of the "glori-
fied" girls, increased throughout the nineteen-twenties pro-
portionately to the post-war expansion of Araerican business.

« .*xe^ixf 1

Biirlesque 303

The Ziegfeld Follies for 1918, v/hich reached San Francisco in
1920 after a for tune -making tour, started the upv/ard curve of
ela'borate display, which successive shows nmst top or fail.
The Greenwich Village Follies in 1921, De Courville' s Londo n
F ollies in 1922, The Spice of 1922 in 1923, The Pepper Box
Rovue also in 1923, The Passing Show in 1924, Artists and
Models in 1925, The Passing Show again in 1925, George V/hite ' a
Scandals in 1926, Exposures in 1927, Gay Paree in 1928, The
Music Box Rqvu q in 1929 1 these are the shows Vi/hich marked the
highest development of tlie Ziegfold t-jj)c of burlesque, They
also were the shov;s which '•larkod -'che last stage of development
in the extravaganza form initiated by The Black Crook , half a
century earlier.

Now names had flashed into repu.tations that were to
become a permanent part of Ainerioan stage history; in addition
to the Howards and Texas Gtiinan, there were Georgie Price,
Sophie Tucker, Mamie Smith, Chic Sale, and Ethel Waters, The
American musical review had boon aggrandized to moniomental
proportions; the big shows with the great names v/ere sent out
from New York along the arterial trunk lines, and a culttiral
pulse v/as established tl'iroughout the country. Very few people
detected a flutter in this pulse. Just as few people paral-
leled the rise of the Ziegfeld reviev/ to the rise of the New
York stock market after the war. As lines on a graph, how-
ever, they were united in the precipitous decline of 1929,


The papier-mache interior of the big sho"/ was exposed, and the
uprooted talent, the great names, were cast out Into the last
days of vaudeville, into night-club entertainment, into radio,
into cinema.


Plorenz Ziegfeld, George ''Tiite, and Sari Carroll
manipulated the most representative stage entertainment in
/anerica for two decades. Against the brightness of their
■•'big-moneyed" casts very few other lights vrere visible; and
when visible, thoy assumed the same pattern described by the
Follies , the S candals , or the Vanities.

Low Field's first independent venture following the
rift in the Y/ebor and Fields partnership was a ^'musical ex-
travaganza" entitled It_Happened in Nor d land. This production
was one of the last clear reflections of the high spot in
American burlesque attained by the New York Music Hall satires.
A review of the San Francisco engagement at the Princess The-
atre appeared in the San Franc isco Nevis Letter for July 4,
1908. Lew Fields had not accompanied the show on its ViTestern


"It is absolu.tely undiluted praise that must
be tendered to It Happe ned in Nordland, and the
people vrho make possible its gaiety. Glen
McDonough has built a libretto that abounds in
witty lines and humorous situations cramraedwith
the real s-oirit of burlesque. The music of
Victor Herbert is really entitled to being
termed 'tunefiil, » for it all has a swing that is

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Jose-fjh ^■Tetiei', also, was to make his contribution to
this last stcind of "the real spirit of b-urlesquo.'' His pro-
duction of The nirl f rom Rector's reached San Prancisco in
Au.^ust 1909. ^'eber and Fields had learned enough vrorlcing
together to pvirvey the sharpest comedy in the country even
when going their separate ways. ±.^_e...^^^^l From Rector' s
opened at the G-a.-'rick Theatre, August 22:

"Paul Potter v/rote the piece.... He has taken
as a text for this v;ork a French farce of
Pierre Veber, entitled L oute , changing the
locale to ilmericanize it.... The Girl from Re c-
tor's amused crowded houses every night in New
Yorlc for a long season at Mr. "'ebor's ovm the-
atre on Broadway..., Carrie "joberja noted Broad~
way sonbrotte is the 'girl' and William Sellery
has the loading comedy role.... The Pendleton
Sisters, three pretty dancing-girls, have a
sensational Y;hirlwind danco that is Introduced
into the action."*

The billing of the Klaw and Erlangor production of
The Ham Tree as a ''now musical vaudeville'' indicated the real
trend of the tim^s* This first San Prancisco production of
The Ham Tree opened at the Novolty Theatre in January 1907
and featured the comedy of Mclntyrc and Hoath, But a new-
comer, VJ, C. Fields, received most of the oncomiiom in the


"One of the most delightful hits in Klaw and
Erlanger's production of The Ham Tree ... is the
clever work' of '.?. C. Fields, "the tramp Ju.ggler,
who plays the role of SherlocJc Baffles.

"He does the funniest tramp juggling act on the
stage, and introduces his part as azi amateur de-
tective. He piizzles over^/thing in sight. Mr.

""" Argonaut , Aureus t 21, 1909.

Burlesque 306

Fields excels in comic make-up, and his easy
manner and laughable pantomime greatly strength-
ens a most interesting character. .. ,""'"'■

The S[>rins of 1908 was dominated hj a double bill

at the Princess Theatre, a ''musical eccentricity" called

Little Christophe r, and ''a travesty of New Yori: operatic and

theatrical life, written by George Hobart and Victor Herbert,

called The Song Bir ds. ''-"•"'

"No little credit for its sr^ccess ( The Song
Bi rds ) belongs to '.7illiam. Btirress, a couiedian
of" intelligence and finish i;ho impersonates
Manager Hamraorstein. .. .Oscar Apfol is the
Conreid of the travesty..,,

"The competing impresarios proudly call out
their loading singers, 'the most expensive
bunch of notes in existence' and if Hammer-
shine's 'queen of cadenzas,' Madame Tattle-
talezine sometimes outshines Conried's Emma
Screams, the Peter Pantson of the Metropolitan
forces easily drovra.s the baser bass of the
Manhattan Eddie de Rest-Cure, , . ."•'"■-"-s!-

Later this same year, the to'^m v/as taken over by
the reappocirance of Ferris Hartman, "long-time f\xn-raaker in
chief at the old Tivoli Opera House"-"-"""'-"- in a series of tried
burlesques including The Jdol's Eye and Ship Aho:;-. "The
plaudits that filled the crackling atmosphere from the or-
chestra rail to the congested lobby were a meaty, satisfying
tribute to his continued popularity."'"""""-^

In 1909, the theatrical background for the big mu-
sical reviews had worn very thin. There were only two in-
stances of burlesque in San Francisco. Johnnie McVeigh and

-;5- San Francisco New s Letter, January 12, 1907,
-;Ht Ibid. April 11, TS08.

-"":: - "- San Francisco N ews Lett er, May 23, 1908.
•:; - :: - ::-?^ Argonaut , August 2^ iSUS,

Burlesque ^^"^

his College Girib appeared at the Orpheum in January with a
featured skit entitled :^^ncMeiT^_Jai_a_Do_rm^^^ In May,
Piff, F aff, Pouff, a "rollicking musical whimsicality" ap-
peared at the Princess Theatre. The chorus of Piff, Paff ,
Pouff was the thing. The principals, Fred Mace, James F.
Stevens, Edv.'in Emery, May Boley, and Zoe Barnett, could be
dispatched with by such hasty coverage as the Argonaut for
May 15,1909 applied; "melodiously winning, or statuesquely com-
ic, or pleasing to the eye, the ear, and the intelligence.'' But
the chorus loaned much more pivotally ijpon the attention? it
was not only "larger than over," the handsome costumes were
not only "the great feature of the show," but, to top every-
thing, "the chorus was French! ly attractive." This emphasis
on the supposed penchant of the Gallic people for spicy un-
dress v;as to set the tone of advertising in American burlesque
right down to the present day. The Folies Berger e, Tc/hich
played at the World's Fair on Treas\ire Island in 1939, was
purveyed to the San Francisco public as an entirely French
affair. Evidently, the United States is still willing to
regard itself as a provincial outpost of Europe in matters of
moral sophistication.

Wine, Y'Joman and Son g, the musical reviev/ at the
Savoy Theatre in March 1910, was a composite of all the ele-
ments which were struggling for dominance in American bur-
lesque. There was the featured soTibrette, Bonita, who ap-
peared in "a bewildering array of French gowns, fourteen in

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Burlesque 308

nimiber, and each one a revelation of the modiste's art." •"'
There was the team of comedians, still reflecting somewhat the
high tradition established by Weber and Fields; and there
were Inevitably, and principally, the "pretty show girls."
Significantly, the first act of the production was called
"Going into Vaudeville," In this act, some of the brightest
lights of the legitimate stage were given employ on the two-
a-day circuit, and it should be noted that these famous peo-
ple were presented in "lifelike characterizations, "not satir-
ically'-. The creative criticism of Nev; York Music Hall had
disappeared in favor of the more mimetic replica - a com-
paratively easy art so thoroughly initiated by Harry Dixey in
his imitation of Sir Henry Irving.

In 1910, the stars deemed brilliant enough for mir-
rored reflection included David '"arflold as the Music Master,
Robert Mantell as Richard III, Mile. Gonee the famous danseuse,
Enrico Caruso, Blanche Bates, George M, Cohan, Pay T.empleton,
Maude Adams, Cha-oncey Olcott, and Jan Kubelik.

The descent to present day, so-called burlesque,
although already indicated, was not to bo precipitous. The
gradual, zigzag decline was to include a variety of sta-
tions. In 1913, Oliver Morosco's "fairyland fantasy," The
Tlk-Tok Man of Oz , presented in April at the Cort Theatre,
v/as to revive all the old values of the best nineteenth cen-
tury extravaganzas. In October 1914, a really thoughtful

■3?- Argonaut , March 12, 1910.


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travesty by Vfllliara de Mille, called Food, was to open at the

Orpheun. The Argonaut for November 7, 1914 foimd that Pood

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