Today is the birthday of the great lion tamer and circus impresario Clyde Beatty (1903-1965).
Beatty wasn’t the first in his line to use a whip and chair, but he was to become the performer most closely associated with those classic accoutrements. From the time he was a teenager he worked with all manner of big cats: not just lions, but tigers, leopards and cougars, and also other sorts of intractable carnivores such as hyenas.
So great was his stardom that Beatty appeared in numerous films starting in the 1930s (comedy fans know him from Abbott and Costello’s Africa Screams); in 1944 he established his very own Clyde Beatty Circus (which later merged with Cole Brothers), and in later years he had his own show on radio (1950 through 1952) and appeared on television. Here he is in 1934’s The Lost Jungle:
To find out about the history of variety entertainment, 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 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