Today is the birthday of Lilyan Tashman (1896-1934). The daughter of Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York she began as a model in high school and broke into vaudeville during her teenage years. In 1914 she met and married Al Lee, who was Eddie Cantor’s comedy partner at the time, with whom she sometimes performed. In 1916 she moved up to Broadway, performing in three annual editions of the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1919 she was cast in Avery Hapgood’s The Gold Diggers in a supporting role and understudied star Ina Claire. This engagement lasted two years. She appeared in a couple more Broadway shows, then headed out to Hollywood to act in films starting in 1921. She divorced Lee at around the same time.
She found success in the movies, usually in supporting roles as catty “other women” and trouble-making villainneses. Notable silent films she appeared in included Pretty Ladies, (1925), Camille (1926), and Manhattan Cocktail (1928). Her success continued into the sound era in such movies as Bulldog Drummond (1929), The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), and New York Nights (1930). She continued to work until her early death in 1934, although he health problems (which turned out to be cancer) began to interfere starting in 1932. She married actor Edmund Lowe in 1925, although she is rumored to have had an extremely active double life as a lesbian dating from her chorus girl days.
For more on vaudeville 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.