Stars of Vaudeville #244: Pert Kelton
Originally posted in 2011
The name Pert Kelton (b. today in 1907) is today best known to Honeymooners freaks, as a sort of footnote. She played Alice when Jackie Gleason first introduced the concept on tv as a comedy sketch. Thus, she suffers from what I call “Shemp Syndrome”. Just as Shemp Howard, a brilliant comedian, is punished by fans for the crime of not being Curly, Kelton is punished for not being Audrey Meadows. Fortunately, her reputation rests on other pillars, many Broadway shows (notably The Music Man and Come Blow Your Horn), and a string of Hollywood movies in the 1930s (and a few others in the 1960s, including The Music Man.The gap between those stretches was due to blacklisting during the McCarthy period.)
She began her career, of course, in vaudeville joining a family act with her parents when she was about 8 years old, which led eventually to a part in the 1925 show Sunny with Marilyn Miller. Her last role was in the 1968 film The Comic. She died later that year.
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.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see 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