Maurice Chevalier was never in American vaudeville but he deserves an honorary nod here due to his origins in French music hall and his success as an American recording artist and star of early Hollywood musicals in the 1930s. Born in Paris on this day in 1888, he began as an acrobat and singer in cafes at age 13. By 1909 he was the partner of France’s biggest female singing star Fréhel, before displacing her with another major star Mistinguette and a long term engagement at the Folies Bergère. He served in World War One, was injured, and taught himself English in a German prison camp. Released in 1916, he entertained English and American soldiers for the duration of the war and made his first trip to London for a smash engagement at the London Palace. These forays paved the way for his Hollywood career which began at Paramount in 1928. There followed another four decades of international fame before he passed away in 1972.
To learn more about entertainers like Maurice Chevalier and 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.