Stars of Vaudeville #588: Bobby North
Today is the birthday of Bobby North (1884-1976). North started in show business at 12 years old, as a boy balcony singer to vaudeville soubrettes (Al Jolson started out in exactly the same way. There was a vogue for it at the time). From here he developed his own song and dance act, but by 1909 he had morphed into a Hebrew monologist — essentially a storytelling stand-up comic performed as a stereotyped Jew, augmented by song parodies. He had great success in this line; by 1914 he headlined at the Palace. By that time he had also acted in several Broadway shows and appeared in the 1910 Ziegfeld Follies.
In 1915 he went into the picture business, first producing the silent movies of Olga Petrova. His IMDB entry shows close to 60 producer credits in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, in nearly every genre. Among them are Show Girl in Hollywood (which Caviglia wrote about here) and the Howard Hawks hit Dawn Patrol.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.