Erin Go Bragh! Sure and ’tis another St. Patty’s Day post!
Talbot O’Farrell (1878-1952) was an English music hall entertainer who wasn’t Irish at all. Yorkshire born, his real name was William Parrott and he initially had tried his luck with a Scottish character named Jock McIver. No soap, the public wanted his Irishman. By 1912, he was a top of the bill performer, known for his renditions of “Dear Little Irish Mother”, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “Your Dear Old Dad Was Irish”. As you can deduce I think from these song titles, his was not to ridicule the Irish as other Anglos had done onstage before him. His thing was sentimentality, greenface or no. He was also in a handful of movies, although he was usually far from star billing. Because you know you want it, here he is singing “I’d Just Paint the Leaf of the Shamrock” (1920):
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.