Today is the birthday of Max Gordon (Mechel Salpeter, 1892-1978). The younger brother of “The German Senator” Cliff Gordon, Max too went into vaudeville, but not as a performer. At the tender age of 17 he became an advance man for a Hyde & Behman show. By his early 20s he had amassed enough experience to start a special agency with a former vaudevillian named Albert “Al” Lewis (not the same one who played Grandpa Munster). The firm of Gordon and Lewis produced finished one act plays for vaudeville, buying the scripts, casting them, booking them, and sending them around the Keith and Orpheum circuits, working with such big names as Phil Baker, Lou Holtz, Eddie Foy and Theda Bara.
By the mid 20s they were producing Broadway shows (one of them was the original stage production of The Jazz Singer, starring Georgie Jessel). In 1930, he struck out on as his own as a producer and became one of the most successful ones on Broadway, responsible for almost 50 shows, including major hits like Roberta (1933) Dodsworth (1934), and Born Yesterday (1946). His last show was The Solid Gold Cadillac (1953-1955).
To find out about 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.
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