Puck and White: Opera vs. Jazz

Today is the birthday of Eva Puck (1892-1979). Through most of her childhood and some of her young adulthood she was in a vaudeville two-act with her brother, known variously as “Puck and Puck”, “Two Little Pucks” and “Eva and Harry Puck”. Around 1920, she joined Lou Clayton and Sammy White (1894-1960) in their successful comedy act. (Eva’s brother Harry went on to a successful solo career in vaudeville, and also worked as a choreographer and songwriter). But three’s a crowd! Puck and White married and became a duo, and Clayton peeled off to join up with Clayton, Jackson and Durante.

Puck and White’s big time act was called “Opera vs. Jazz.” Eva pretended to be a dance teacher, Sammy, her oafish pupil. In addition to dance and opera parodies, their act managed to demonstrate that they could actually dance for real. This was actually captured on a Lee Deforest Phonofilm (one of the first talkies) in 1923. The team  headlined at the Palace on several occasions, and were also cast as a husband-wife team in several Broadway shows, notable The Girl Friend (1926) and Show Boat (1927, 1932).

Puck and white divorced in the mid 30s. Puck remarried and retired from show business. Sammy White went on to many subsequent hit Broadway shows and Hollywood movies. In 1957 he played himself in The Helen Morgan Story.

To find out more about vaudeville, and acts like Puck and White, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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