Today is the birthday of Irene Ryan (nee Jessie Irene Noblitt, 1902-1973), best known as “Granny” on The Beverly Hillbillies.
Most people today don’t know she started out in vaudeville as part of a two act with her husband Tim. Billed as “Tim and Irene”, their’s was a Dumb Dora act, and it was successful enough that by the time vaudeville dried up in the mid 30s they got their own series of starring shorts at Educational Pictures, in addition to frequent radio appearances. After Educational, they worked at Monogram. Their marriage (and comedy team) broke up in 1942. After that, Irene worked solo, first on Bob Hope’s radio show, then in Edgar Kennedy shorts for RKO, then in a series of roles on film and television through the early 60s.
It was in 1962, she got the role she will always be remembered for, Granny Klampett.
But everyone knows her in that role. Let’s look at her in her earlier incarnation. This is from 1944’s Hot Rhythm:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available 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.