Today is the birthday of Charles E. “Charlie” Evans (1856-1945). He got his start in the rough-and-tumble minstrel/ saloon variety scene of Lower Manhattan in the 1870s, playing the usual assortment of blackface**, Irish and “Dutch” characters. For a time he was teamed with a comedian named James Niles, then the two joined forces with Bryant and Hoey to form a “comedy four”. “Hoey” was William or Billy “Old Hoss” Hoey (lots of cool information on him here).
In 1882, Evans and Hoey dropped their original partners and developed a risque comedy sketch called “the Book Agent”. They hired two pretty girls to sing and dance in the act (the “French Twin Sisters”) and ended up marrying them. In 1884, with the help of prolific playwright Charles H. Hoyt, the expanded their vaudeville turn into a full length show called “A Parlor Match”, which ran in Lower Manhattan until 1893. After this, there were several successful musical versions on Broadway. When Hoey passed away in 1897, Evans continued acting in Broadway shows, and later in Hollywood movies.
To learn 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 please 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
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.