Today is the birthday of Ian Keith (1899-1960.) Keith was a star of the Broadway stage and Hollywood films starting in the 1920s. In 1928 he married the older Ethel Clayton (1882-1966) who had begun in stock companies and been in films since 1909.
The two toured briefly in vaudeville together with a playlet called “Clipped”. The gambit was not a success. The couple broke up in 1931, although they later remarried (and subsequently broke up again). Keith continued to act on stage and on screen until the time of his death (notable films included D.W. Griffith’s Abraham Lincoln, Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail, and several films by Cecil B. DeMille). And honorable mention to his bravura turn in the notorious Nightmare Alley (1947) in which he plays an alcoholic former vaudevillian turned carny! Clayton’s Broadway career had ended in 1918, and most of her roles in the talkie era consisted of uncredited bit parts. Her last was in The Perils of Pauline (1947).
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.