Today is the birthday of Rose Melville (Rosa Smock, 1867-1946). A native of Terre Haute, she toured vaudeville for several years with her sister Ida as “Two Jays from Indiana.”. Rose was to become almost universally identified with “Sis Hopkins”, a character she first played in the 1899 play By the Sad Sea Waves. It was such a hit that she brought it to vaudeville, and toured with it in original musical comedies. She performed as Sis over 5,000 times between 1900 and 1918. In 1916, she also appeared as the character in a series of comedy shorts for the Kalem Company. But by the late teens she was getting long in the tooth to be playing a pig-tailed rural teenager. She played a few more roles in silents in the early twenties, but most of the post 1918 period was spent in retirement with her second husband, songwriter/ actor Frank Minzey. (Her first husband had been her manager Harry Hardy).
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.