Stars of Vaudeville #742: Madame Olympia DesVall
Born in Germany in 1876, Olympia DesVall was an equestrienne who performed not only with horses but also a troupe of trained dogs, and later birds. In written accounts, the animals were said to “adorably follow her all around the ring”. She played throughout France and Germany before making her first trip to the U.S. in 1907 to play the Hippodrome. In 1914, she returned to play the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The following year (and for years thereafter) she toured the Keith circuit with versions of the same act including an appearance at the Palace. Joe Laurie, Jr. said that she had “the best bird act in the business”.
She was still doing her act in 1920 — an item in a trade paper reports that she was suing a steamship company for the loss of many of the props and costumes pictures above (hopefully none of the dogs). After that, I can find nothing. One wonders if she wasn’t forced to retire because of the loss.
To find out more 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.
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