Today is the birthday of Robert Chisholm (William Leslie Chisholm, 1894-1960). Australian born Chisholm was the son of a Melbourne bootmaker, whose Christian name he took as his professional one. He served as an ambulance driver in WWI; from here ho migrated to the military division that put on camp shows, and from here to professional theatre. He appears to have received some training as a singer and musician in his childhood, for his progress in show business was rapid and he was given a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music. For almost four decades, Chisholm went were the jobs were, and this meant dividing his time between opera, musical theatre, vaudeville, music hall, film, recording, and constant shuttling between the West End, Broadway, Hollywood, Sidney and provincial tours of the English speaking world.
It was Eddie Darling who spotted Chisholm for the Keith-Albee vaudeville circuit on a scouting tour; Chisholm made big time tours in the States almost every year between 1926 and the death of the two-a-day at the Palace in 1932. Between 1928 and 1951, he has 20 major Broadway credits. (Here’s an interesting one: he was MacHeath in the first American production of Threepenny Opera in 1933. It only played a week). He was also in the original Broadway productions of On the Town and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Though he was tried in Hollywood, he only really has a proper role appears in one major film: The Lottery Bride (1930) with Jeanette MacDonald, Joe E. Brown, Zasu Pitts, and Harry Gribbon. Later he appeared in an early experimental television production called Father O’Flynn (1935). His role in It Happened in Hollywood (1937) was just a walk-on. Circa 1960, he retired to his home country.
To learn more about 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.