The Tragic Death of Frank Carter

Singer/dancer Frank Carter (1888-1920) is sadly better known for his death than his life. The young performer met Marilyn Miller when they performed together in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918. They fell in love and married, which infuriated the possessive Ziegfeld, who fired Carter from the Follies of 1919. Miller was performing in that show when she learned that Carter had died in a car crash on his way to meet her.

A Kansas City native, Carter had gotten his start as an usher and occasional extra at his local theatre. He worked his way into show business first as a high-diving daredevil, then as a slide singer in a local nickelodeon, and then into vaudeville. A successful engagement at the Victoria theatre led to a tour of English music halls lasting until the eve of the First World War. Carter returned to conquer American vaudeville again..and to the Broadway revue that led him to Miller. Miller considered him the love of her life. So much so that she buried him in the $35,000 mausoleum pictured above, and had herself interred with him when she herself passed (despite two subsequent husbands).  The monument is in Woodlawn Cemetary in the Bronx.

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.

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