Today is the birthday of the great impresario André Charlot (1882-1956), whose great career radiated across the great show business capitals along with the march of history, westward, from Paris to London to New York to Hollywood.
Charlot learned the show biz ropes in his native country in famous venues like the Folies Bergère and the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. In 1912 he moved to London, where he became one of the managers of the Alhambra Theatre, and mounted his famous series of revues, fostering the talents of the likes of Beatrice Lillie, Gertrude Lawrence, Noel Coward, and Ivor Novello. These intimate annual musical comedy shows, which prized writing and individual performance over spectacle, were a major staple of the London theatre until the Great Depression finally took its toll in 1937. Andre Charlot’s Revue of 1924 was a major smash of the Broadway stage, making Bea Lillie a star of the American theatre as well. Charlot also collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock and others on the interesting 1930 revue film Elstree Calling, and produced successful radio versions of his revue for the BBC called Charlot’s Hour.
In 1937 he moved to Hollywood where he initially staged versions of his revue for night clubs. Starting in 1942 he became a bit player in movies, acting in dozens (often uncredited) through 1955.
To find out more about the variety theatre, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.