Benny Ryan is best known today as a George Burns anecdote; he was his rival for Gracie’s hand, and by all accounts she didn’t make it easy for either one of them. Ironically Burns won out because he was the less successful one at the time. Ryan was always out on the road. A song-and-dance man, he was for a time the partner of George White (he of the Scandals), and was also the straight man in a Dumb Dora act similar to Burns and Allen called Ryan and Lee. He also co-wrote dozens of songs used by vaudeville stars and Broadway revues, the most famous of which was “When Frances Dances With Me.” This 1922 version is by Billy Murray and Ada Jones:
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.