Today is the birthday of Bert Swor (1878-1943) (or, rather it may be; another source says January 9, 1871 is the actual birthdate).
A native of rural Texas, he got his start as a minstrel performer** in saloons and variety theatres in the Dallas area. His four younger brothers were also to follow him into show business, the most famous of which was his brother John. As minstrelsy folded into the new vaudeville industry, he developed a solo act that consisted of a monologue, topped off by a song and dance. He may also have briefly partnered with Charles Mack during these early years. Swor would later act with Moran and Mack in the 1929 film Why Bring That Up? In the early 30s, Swor was brought in as a replacement for George Moran in the team, although it still continued to be called Moran and Mack. (To confuse matters still further, Bert’s brother John Swor had also once partnered with Charles Mack.)
Bert was to act in a number of Mack Sennett shorts in 1929 and 1930, starring the likes of Andy Clyde, Billy Bevan, Harry Gribbon and Marjorie Beebe. In 1938 he was featured in Rainbow’s End, surely one of the last re-creations of an old time minstrel show, starring himself, Gus Van of Van & Schenck, Eddie Peabody and Eddie Leonard. After this he retired to Oklahoma, passing away five years later. Swor’s wife Amy Archer was later to marry Jack Norworth.
To learn more 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.
**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.