Doris Eaton, The Last Ziegfeld Girl
Today is the birthday of Doris Eaton (1904-2010), whose chief claim to fame was having been the last surviving Ziegfeld chorus girl. The amazing thing about that is, her time with the Follies had been so early. The original run of the Follies was through 1931, although there were several later Shubert revivals. Yet Eaton had been with the show from 1918 through 1920; countless others had come after her. But Eaton had been a very young teenager when she was employed by Ziegfeld (and yes, she lived to be 106). Prior to this she and her many siblings had been employed by the Poli stock company and appeared in production of The Blue Bird. Her first Broadway show was Mother Carey’s Chickens, in which she appeared with her brother Charles. From 1921 through 1929 she appeared in silent films, even starring in a couple of them, while continuing to appear on Broadway. While her sister Mary was able to briefly make a go of it in talkies, Doris did not. She continued to perform briefly in vaudeville, did some stock theatre, and became a successful dance instructor for many years. In 1949 she married one of her pupils, Paul Travis, becoming Doris Eaton Travis. The ultimate cornucopia for info on this long-lived lady can be found in the eye-popping book Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies by Lauren Redniss.
For more on show biz history, 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 comedy film history 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