Today is the birthday of Imro Fox (Isidore Fuchs, 1862-1910). Fox moved to the U.S. from his native Poland at age 17 and began his working life as a hotel chef. An amateur magician, he was drafted to become a professional within a few months when he was hired for an emergency substitution while working at a Washington D.C. hotel. Billed as a “comic conjurer” he would do a rapid succession of sleight-of-hand illusions, punctuated by one-line jokes, often about his baldness, although he was also often dressed in a wizard costume. Fox was to tour throughout the U.S. and the U.K. for the remainder of his career. In 1896 he joined a magic super-group formed by producer M.B. Leavitt with Servais Leroy and Frederick Powell called The Great Triple Alliance. That same year he made several short films depicting his stage act for Biograph. He died mysteriously at the age of 47 in a Utica, New York hotel while booked at the Keith-Proctor Theatre. The cause was given as “acute indigestion”.
To find out 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.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out 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