Evan Burrows Fontaine: Denishawn and Divorces


Today is the birthday of Evan Burrows Fontaine (1898-1984). Born in rural Texas, and descended from several heroes of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, as a teenager she studied and performed with the Denishawn Dancers under Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. She made her first vaudeville tours with the Denishawn company, and then embarked on her own solo tour of the big time in 1916, supported by Kenneth Harlan, later to be a film star. Vaudeville led quite naturally to Broadway revues, and she appeared next in Ziegfeld’s Nine O’Clock Revue (1919-1920) and Ed Wynn’s Carnival (1920). She next appeared in three silent films, Women Men LoveMadonnas and Men, and A Romantic Adventuress all released in 1920. Her time in the sun was to be short-lived however thanks to an ill-considered extramarital affair she had with millionaire Cornelius “Sonny” Vanderbilt Whitney, resulting in divorce from her husband Sterling Lawrence Adair (who committed suicide soon thereafter), the birth of a son whom Fontaine claimed was Whitney’s, and a breach of promise suit against Whitney which Fontaine lost at considerable cost to herself, financial and otherwise. After the brief bump of tabloid publicity, her career was essentially over, although she did become part owner of a popular Philadelphia nightclub in the late 1930s.

To find out more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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