Today is the birthday of Grace Hayes (1895-1989). A singer in vaudeville and nightclubs, she began to find success in the 1920s, with Broadway shows like The Bunch and Judy (1922), The Merry World (1926), A Night in Spain (1927), Ballyhoo of 1930, and A Little Racketeer (1932). She began her recording career for Victor in 1927. Her first appearance at the Palace was in 1929 as the singer for songwriter and piano player Neville Fleeson. In the act she did her impression of Mae West, which brought the house down. (She also reprised this act in a film short that year). She got her own radio program on NBC, and then returned to the Palace for another star turn in 1932.
By then she was making her transition to Hollywood, which was to be her base through the 30s. In addition to her frequent radio appearances, she owned and performed at her own Hollywood nightclub the Grace Hayes Lodge and appeared in a few films including Paul Whiteman’s The King of Jazz (1932); Al Boasberg’s Myrt and Marge (1933), starring Myrtle Vail and Donna Damarel and also featuring Ted Healy and Eddie Foy Jr,; the musical Rainbow Over Broadway (1933); the short Maid for a Day (1936) in which she co-starred with her son Peter Lind Hayes whom had also frequently featured in her vaudeville act; and the biggest film she was associated with, Babes in Arms (1939) with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In the 40, she moved to Las Vegas, acquiring one of the first joins on the strip The Red Rooster, and making that the Grace Hayes Lodge as well (later renamed the Patio), which she ran until she died. Her last film credit is in Milton Berle’s Always Leave Them Laughing (1949). She was also the subject of an episode of This is Your Life in 1953. The second of her three husbands was Charley Foy.
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