Al Herman: Assassin of Grief

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Today is the birthday of Al Herman (1887-1967). Herman was a Scottish-born blackface** vaudeville monologist, billed variously as “The Assassin of Grief and Remorse” and “The Black Assassin of Grief.” His highest stage credit was an appearance in the 1921 edition of The Greenwich Village Follies. In the 20s he wrote and directed a handful of comedy shorts and participated in an early Lee DeForest talkie experiment. From the 30s through the 50s he worked mostly as a bit player in Hollywood films (e.g., “reporter” in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town).

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable 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.

**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad. 

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