Her rendition of “Rosie, You Are My Posie” supposedly inspired Al Jolson to go into show business. Eddie Cantor once stole tickets to see her perform. Elsie Janis did an impression of her. Today, a footnote, but in her day there was no one bigger. Born on this day in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1865 to a pair of successful stage parents, Fay Templeton had made her onstage debut by the age of 3. She had been successful in opera, Shakespeare and contemporary melodrama for nearly three decades when she gained her greatest fame as a member of Weber and Fields’ stock company, and later as the star of George M. Cohan’s 45 Minutes From Broadway. (If modern audiences are aware of her at all, it might be because she is memorably portrayed in the Cohan bio-pic Yankee Doodle Dandy). Most of her time on the vaudeville stage had to do with Weber and Fields reunion tours (Templeton was one of those performers who must have “retired” a dozen times only to pop up again a few years later). One of her last great roles was as the original Aunt Minnie in Jerome Kern’s Roberta. She took her final bow in 1939.
For more on vaudeville history including top stars like Fay Templeton consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous