Because of where we are in the cycle of history, when researching No Applause I only got to speak with a couple of performers who’d actually been in vaudeville when it was still alive as an industry. Rose Marie was the only one I got to interview properly. I also chatted briefly with Fayard Nicholas, although he wasn’t up for a full interview.
Until just a few days ago, I had completely forgotten however that I had also spoken with Sylvia Froos. And I had forgotten for a good reason — the woman was very cranky, quite nasty to me. She really didn’t want to be interviewed. Which was her right, she was pushing ninety at the time. She died shortly thereafter so I never had the opportunity to give it a second shot. In essence, she seemed resentful of the fact that she had been ignored for decades, and now that she was one of the only vaudevillians living, people were interested in her again. I guess I’d be cranky too.
Born this day in 1914, she started singing in vaudeville at the age of seven in her native Baltimore. By 1927 her star had risen such that she appeared in two Vitaphone shorts, months before The Jazz Singer. By the early 30s, she had her own NBC radio program, was making hit records, and appeared in a slew of movies, notably Stand Up and Cheer (1934) with Shirley Temple. Towards the late 30s, with vaudeville dead in the U.S., she crossed the puddle to t he Mother Country, where music hall thrived for several more years. By mid century her career had wound down, although she enjoyed a brief resurgence of interest in her work in her very last years. She passed away in 2004.
To learn more about 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.