Today is the birthday of Helen Ford (Helen Barnett, 1894-1982).
Ford started out in vaudeville as a singer in upstate New York, eventually moving up to Broadway, where she appeared in 14 productions between 1920 and 1942. Three of these were Rodgers and Hart (and Herbert Fields) shows: Dearest Enemy (1925), Peggy Ann (1926) and Chee Chee (1928). Most amusing to me is that the Helen was the original Helen in Helen of Troy New York (1923), doubly significant because she herself hailed from Troy. Through her Broadway years, she continued to perform in vaudeville, appearing at the Palace several times in the 1920s.
As she grew older and Broadway work grew scarce, she went to Hollywood and worked as a bit player from the late ’40s through the mid ’70s. Her last turn was in a film called Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975), in which she played “Woman with Ear Trumpet”.
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.