Florence Walton: From Philly to the Fields of France

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Today is the birthday of Florence Walton (1883-1981). Walton began her career acting in melodramas and musicals at the Chestnut Street Theatre in her native Philadelphia in 1901. In 1907 she was hired for the dance chorus for the Lew Fields show The Girl Behind the Counter and thus began the New York phase of her career. From here she went on to a couple of Ziegfeld shows, a year as a solo in vaudeville, back to Broadway for a few more shows, then, in 1912, she teamed up with French dancer Maurice Mouvet in a ballroom dance act in big time vaudeville and a handful of Broadway revues. The two (who also married) were to become principal rivals to the Castles, and played the Palace several times.

In 1916 (the height of World War One) they went to Paris to perform for the troops. Mouvet would end up serving his country as an ambulance driver; the couple wound up being separated for long periods. In 1920 they divorced and broke up the act. Mouvet returned to France. Walton was to remain a big time vaudeville item with a succession of other partners for several years. For a time starting in 1920 her partner was Allan Fagan, Ina Claire’s brother. By 1923, her new partner and husband was Leon Leitrim. The pair retired from vaudeville and moved to Paris in 1927. Walton ran a successful women’s clothing boutique for several years, divorced Leitrim in 1931, married and divorced French film director Pierre Columbier and returned to the U.S. in 1935. In the late 30s she married movie actor Howard Phillips, and the two spent the remainder of their lives in comfortable retirement in New York.

To find out more about the vaudeville 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.

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And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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