Today is the birthday of Helen Mack, sometimes billed as Helen Macks (Helen McDougall, 1913-1986). Mack had extensive credits in nearly every branch of American show business: silent films, talkies, vaudeville, Broadway, radio and tv. We peg this post to the vaudeville series for the sake of convenience, for vaudeville is the hub of them all.
She actually began as a child actor in silent films, appearing in five of them from 1923 through 1924: Success, Zaza, Under the Red Robe, Grit and Pied Piper Malone. In 1924 she got her first Broadway credit in Neighbors. In 1926 she began appearing in vaudeville, presumably as long as dates were available in that then rapidly dying field (roughly the early days of the next decade).
She broke into films with a small part in D.W. Griffith’s last film The Struggle (1931). She appeared in dozens of films through 1945 with great roles in notable films like The Son of Kong (1933), She (1935), Harold Lloyd’s The Milky Way (1936), and His Girl Friday (1940). In 1945 she left films to write, produce and direct network radio programs (she’d been acting in radio since the early 30s, notably in Myrt and Marge). This kept her going through the early 1950s. After this, she dabbled a little at writing for television).
Someone created this tribute web site to her: http://helenmack.us/
To learn more about comedy film history please check out 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. To learn about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.