Marshall Montgomery (1886-1942) was a top ventriloquist of the vaudeville years who traveled the world with his act. He’d begun his career with a musical comedy act, doing an impression of George M. Cohan and playing the harmonica. Such was his mouth control that he could eat, drink and whistle with a handkerchief stuffed in his cheek, and he could smoke, drink and eat an apple while his dummy partner “spoke” continuously and without interruption. He is credited with having invented those now common vent stunts, and was considered one of the best vent acts of his day.
He also generally worked with an assistant, most often a young lady named Edna Courtney, but I’ve also seen an account of a “funny little man in a straw hat”. The photo above is from around 1913; in 1918 he played the Hippodrome, a mighty big room for a vent act. In the 20s he retired for a awhile, but returned to the business in the 1930s, becoming one of the regular acts at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe, and generally working the nightclub circuit. He spent his last years living in Brooklyn’s St. George Hotel which was gutted by a spectacular fire in 1995.
To find out more about vaudeville past and present, including ventriloquists like Marshall Montgomery, 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.