Stars of Vaudeville # 566: John Steel

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Today is the birthday of John Steel (1895-1971), best known for having introduced Irving Berlin’s “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919.

He’d gotten his start on Broadway just a year before, in a show called The Maid of the Mountains, after studying music in Paris during the First World War. The relationship with Ziegfeld continued in the Follies and Midnight Frolics of 1920, and then he joined Berlin for the Music Box Revues of 1922 and 1923.

In 1922, he began headlining in big time vaudeville, and continued to work mostly in vaudeville and nightclubs into the 1930s. In 1930, he married Jeanette Hackett, his third and final wife.

By 1938 he had gone from having been one of the most highly paid entertainers in show business, to being bankrupt.

Now here he is singing “Tell Me Little Gypsy” from the Follies of 1920:

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

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And don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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