Hazel Dawn (Hazel Tout, 1890-1988) was born on this day.
Born into a family of Utah Mormons, she and her entire family moved to Wales as missionaries when she was eight, and Hazel would take high end music lessons (singing and violin) in the Great Capitals of Europe. Her theatrical debut was in the West End show Dear Little Denmark in 1909. A great star in her time, she was to conquer Broadway and movies long before she condescended to venture into vaudeville. Her breakthrough U.S. production was in The Pink Lady at the New Amsterdam Theater in 1911, where she introduced the song “My Beautiful Lady” which she both sang and played on violin. The turn made her the toast of Broadway; Ruth Gordon cited it as her inspiration for going into the theatre. There followed a succession of Broadway hits for Dawn stretching through the end of the 1920s. (Another notable one was The Century Girl, the all-star Ziegfeld–Dillingham show that launched the Century Theatre and introduced the Celestial Staircase that would come to be a permanent fixture of Ziegfeld’s Follies). Her film career at Famous Players–Lasky stretched from 1914 through 1917, encompassing eleven feature films.
It wasn’t until 1923 that Dawn toured big time vaudeville, in a couple of 20 minute playlets designed to showcase her talent as an actress. After the 1926 show The Great Temptations, Dawn married a Western tycoon and mostly retired from the business, returning briefly for shows in 1931 and 1948.
To learn more history about the history of vaudeville, 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 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