Today is the birthday of music hall star Charles Coborn (Charles Whitton McCallum, 1852-1945). Coborn was largely associated with two songs: “Two Lovely Black Eyes” (1886) and “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” (1892), which he sang in the character of a drunken swell. His performance of the song became a phenomenon; he was to sing it a quarter of a million times all over the world in 14 languages. In 1900, he made a tour of American vaudeville with equal success. Unfortunately the song was SUCH a smash that he never got past its shadow. He never found a new song to top it, and was forced to trot it out to the end of his days, both a blessing and a curse. For while he continued to be a star, he was also a star of the past and thus dropped out of his headliner status as time wore on.
He’s in his eighties when he sang his signature song here (below). He continued to make public appearances into his 90s.
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