Today is the birthday of Kathleen Clifford (1887-1963). She began her career when still a teenager, in musical comedies such as the 1907 show The Top o’ the World. By 1910 she was supplementing her Broadway success touring vaudeville as one of America’s premier male impersonators. Initially because the vogue had originated in music hall, she allowed people to think she came from England (she was from Charlottesville, Virginia). Like Vesta Tilley and others, she wore a top hat and tails, billing herself as “The Smartest Chap in Town”. For awhile she worked in a two act with female impersonator Bothwell Browne.
Starting in 1917 she also had a film career (one of her most notable films was the 1919 When the Clouds Roll By with Douglas Fairbanks), but by the early 30s, both her movie and vaudeville careers wound down.
To find out more about vaudeville and male impersonators Kathleen Clifford, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film, by golly, check out, Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube