Norton and Lee: Stars of Song


Sammy Lee (1890-1968) was birthed on this day. (Though he was an important choreographer for several crucial years, I could only find a picture of his one-time vaudeville partner Ruby Norton).

Sammy Lee (Samuel Levy, 1890-1968) started in vaudeville as a child, performing in Gus Edwards kiddie acts. Ruby Norton had started out in San Francisco in 1910 with Johnny Stanley performing “A Potpourri of Songs and Dances”. Norton and Lee came together in the 1912 Broadway show The Firefly and played vaudeville together for six years. They were on the final bill at the Victoria together in 1915, and played Hendersons floor show in Coney Island in 1916.

Around 1920, Lee became a choreographer. He was stage an impressive number of important shows for Broadway (including Earl Carroll’s Vanities, the Ziegfeld Follies, The Cocoanuts, Rio Rita, Showboat and many others) and Hollywood, (including Stand Up and Cheer, Bright Eyes, Ali Baba Goes to Town and many dozens of others). His last film was Abilene Town in 1946. Then he retired.

Ruby Norton remained in vaudeville, billed as “The Big Little Star of Song”. She toured British and Australian music halls in the 20s, and became a headliner in the U.S. Her last important show was at the Palace in 1927. During those years, she recorded a number of albums, and appeared in one early talkie short in 1921. Her partner and accompanist during those years was Clarence Senna.

To find out more about vaudeville and acts like Norton and Leeconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 


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