Stars of Vaudeville #173: Irene Franklin

Originally posted in 2010. 

Such is the ephemeral nature of live theatre. Singer-comedienne-impressionist-songwriter Irene Franklin was a top headliner from the turn of the twentieth century until the death of vaudeville, variously and plausibly billed as the “Queen of Vaudeville” and the “Most Popular Woman Vaudeville Artist”. But today? A red-headed step-child. Which is ironic. Her signature tune (inspired by her real-life mane) was “Red Head”, the type of ditty called a “kid” number — songs sung by women in cute little kid voices. Other character songs in her repertoire included “The German Prima Donna”, “I’ve Got the Mumps”, and “I Want to Be a Janitor’s Child.” She starred in a half dozen Broadways shows between 1908 and 1930; made numerous recordings 1911-1917, and filled out the balance of her career as a Hollywood character actress (in mostly undistinguished films) from the late silent era until 1939. She passed away in 1941 at the age of 65.

To find out about  the history of vaudevilleconsult 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 Mediaalso available from etc etc etc



2 Responses to “Stars of Vaudeville #173: Irene Franklin”

  1. Is “a red-headed step-child” a saying? I have never heard that before and I can’t quite make out what it is you’re saying. Thx.


    • yes it is an old expression, means unjustly ignored. It has double meaning here because she actually had red hair and sang a song about it. The idea behind the original idiom implies being an outcast because you had a different pappy


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