Irene Franklin: “Most Popular Woman in Vaudeville”

Such is the ephemeral nature of live theatre. Singer-comedienne-impressionist-songwriter Irene Franklin (1876-1941)  was a top headliner from the turn of the twentieth century until the death of vaudeville, variously and plausibly billed as the “Queen of Vaudeville” and the “Most Popular Woman Vaudeville Artist”. But today? A red-headed step-child. Which is ironic. Her signature tune (inspired by her real-life mane) was “Red Head”, the type of ditty called a “kid” number — songs sung by women in cute little kid voices.

Other character songs in her repertoire included “The German Prima Donna”, “I’ve Got the Mumps”, and “I Want to Be a Janitor’s Child.” She starred in a half dozen Broadways shows between 1908 and 1930; made numerous recordings 1911-1917, and filled out the balance of her career as a Hollywood character actress (in mostly undistinguished films) from the late silent era until 1939. She passed away in 1941 at the age of 65.

 To find out more about  the history of vaudeville and performers like Irene Franklinconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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