Today is the birthday of Richard Harding Davis (1864-1916). Right now, those of you in the know are going, “The Devil you say! What’s he got to do with vaudeville?!”
For Davis is best known as a journalist, who was instrumental in covering the Spanish-American war for the Hearst papers. He was a chum of Teddy Roosevelt, who helped mythologize the Rough Riders. He was the epitome of the era’s ideal of the Man’s Man. He is also credited with being among those who set the trend for being completely clean-shaven, a pivotal distinction between men’s styles of the 19th and 20th centuries. And he also wrote fiction.
AND….he also wrote sketches for vaudeville. In fact, he is one of nine writers for vaudeville included in the instructive 1915 book by Brett Page, Writing for Vaudeville. And occasionally his short stories were adapted by others into vaudeville playlets, such as Robert Hilliard’s adaptation of his divorce-themed weepie The Littlest Girl. AND…his second wife was vaudeville star Bessie McCoy.
Unfortunately, Harding died of a heart attack in 1916 at the relatively young age of 51 — depriving us of much more writing from this prolific man.
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.