Posterity probably knows them both best for the chain of west coast theatres they owned. But if you’ve ever seen the 1933 movie musical Footlight Parade with James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, then you know a little something about their high water mark. They created fabulous live revues as prologues to motion picture exhibitions — an odd, transitional moment in the history of both theatre and film. Before that, they were a brother and sister ballroom dancing act in the mold of the Castles. Fanchon and Marco are actually their first names — a fairly unusual way to bill themselves. Their full names were Fanchon and Marco Wolff (Fanchon later married and became Fanchon Wolff Simon). Their birthdays are unknown, although it is recorded that Marco was born in April 1894 and Fanchon in May 1892. They started out in a trio with their brother. All sang, danced and played musical instruments. The teens were Fanchon and Marco’s heyday as a dancing duo; the twenties were their high point as producers. Fun fact: after Buster Keaton’s divorce from his wife Natalie in the early ’30s, it was Fanchon and Marco who bought their house, the famous “Italian Villa”!
You can learn a lot more about Fanchon and Marco on their official web site here. Fanchon died in 1965; Marco in 1977.
To learn more about vaudeville, and acts like Fanchon and Marco, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.