Paul Gerard Smith: Top Vaudeville Sketch Writer

Paul Gerard Smith (born this day in 1894) was one of the most successful of the vaudeville sketch writers. At his peak he had close to a hundred acts using his material  touring the circuits simultaneously, and his name was credited in the big time playbills, a rarity for writers. He simply loved to write all his life. He wrote and produced his first revue when still a child to raise money for team uniforms. He broke into journalism when still a teenager in his hometown of Chicago. In WWI, he enlisted, and mounted his first professional show in the form of the Sixth Marine Revue, which toured the Rhine Occupation Area. This helped him break into vaudeville when he returned to Chi, alternating as a free-lance reporter and a comedy sketchwriter. His success there emboldened him to move to New York in 1920, where, within months, he’d sold material to scores of acts. This led to writing for Broadway shows: The Music Box Revue (1922), the Ziegfeld Follies of 1924, 1925 & 1926, the Greenwich Village Follies, Earl Carroll’s Vanities of 1928, and many others. In the late 20s, he took his act to Hollywood, writing for the likes of Buster Keaton (The General and Battling Butler), Harold Lloyd (SpeedyWelcome Danger and Feet First) and many others, racking up close to 100 screenwriting credits through 1954 (mostly “B” movies and shorts). In WWII, he wrote material for dozens of U.S.O. performers. He passed away in 1968, reportedly still writing away…

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable 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.


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