Today is the birthday of Hannah Williams (1911-1973). Along with her older sister Dorothy, she began performing in a singing dancing kiddie duo in the vaudeville theatres around their native Scranton in the late nineteen teens. By the mid 1920s they were fronting the Scranton Sirens, Charley Straight and Ben Pollack Orchestras in night clubs and dance halls, and being featured in George White’s Scandals of 1924.
Hannah was featured as a solo in the Billy Rose revue Sweet and Low (1930) , and then married a succession of very public husbands; band leader Roger Wolfe Kahn (1931-1933), boxer Jack Dempsey (1933-1943) and an actor named Thomas J. Monaghan (1950-1951). She made one Vitaphone short The Audition (1933), then retired from performing, although she did occasionally appear in radio and was in the 1937 Broadway show Hooray for What but cut from the show before it opened. Dorothy replaced Hannah in Sweet and Low when she left to marry Kahn (his father the famous financier and impresario Otto Kahn didn’t want his son married to a showgirl). Dorothy was briefly married to the jazz cornetist Jimmy McPartland.
The Williams Sisters made very few records, but here’s one of them:
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.