Originally posted in 2012
The Wiere Brothers were Sylvester (1909-1970); his brothers were Herbert (1908-1999) and Harry (1906-1992). Third generation performers, they were born in Prague, Vienna and Berlin, respectively as their family toured the Great Capitals. As children they studied singing and ballet at the Prussian State Opera. In 1922 they set off with their own act, incorporating those skills along with comedy and acrobatics. Fleeing Nazism and looming war, they moved to the U.S. in 1937 where they immediately found work in night clubs and film, and later television.
In another of their oft-recounted routines, the three come out as a string trio. Herbert keeps trying to play serious music, but the brothers keep cutting up with hillbilly playing. Finally, in consternation , Herbert gives up and balances his violin on his chin. Harry, sees and responds by balancing his guitar on his chin. Sylvester, who is playing an enormous bass fiddle seems to be in a pickle. There is a long pause as the audience observes his struggle. Finally, the payoff–as he too balances his instrument on his chin.
Of their half dozen or so movie performances perhaps the best known is in The Road to Rio (1947) with Hope and Crosby. They briefly had their own tv series Oh, Those Bells! in 1962, directed by Jules White (cancelled after 13 episodes). Some of their last appearances included Double Trouble in 1967 with Elvis Presley, and a 1969 shot on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. The act disbanded after Sylvester passed away in 1970.
By the way, there was also a Wiere Sister, Inge, who was in an act called the Dancing Zerbys; she was the mother of the actress Kim Darby.
The Wiere Brothers actually have their own web site! Go to wierebrothers.com for more info.
To find out more about vaudeville past and present, 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 don’t miss 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