One of the great thespians of his day, Frank Keenan (April 8, 1858-February 24, 1929) alternated performances in “legit” with dramatic sketches in vaudeville. Variety‘s Joe Laurie, Jr. put his performance in Willard Mack’s “Vindication” in his all-time dream vaudeville bill, so powerful an entertainment was the turn. Keenan’s career also included major roles in The Christian (1868), The Girl of the Golden West (1905) and The Warrens of Virginia (1909), and close to 40 films.
Ultimately Keenan had cause to regret the easy money of vaudeville. It was through that connection that he was to become the unwilling father-in-law of comedian Ed Wynn – a mere clown, and worse…an Israelite. Despite Keenan’s rancor (for a time he disowned the couple), Wynn named his first son for him: familiar character actor Keenan Wynn–best known perhaps for protecting the Coca Cola machine in Dr. Strangelove. And also as the voice of the Winter Warlock in Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.
To find out more about Frank Keenan and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.