Today is the birthday of Vera Gordon (Vera Pogoreslsky, 1886-1948). Pogorelsky began acting at age 11 in her native Russia. After marrying writer/director Nathan A. Gordon the two immigrated to the U.S. with their three month old infant in 1905. Unable to speak English, they moved to the Lower East Side, and began appearing in Yiddish theatre and vaudeville.
A little over a decade later she was playing Broadway, the West End, and Big Time Vaud theatres, including the Palace, where she appeared in a sketch called “Lullabye”. In her book, The Palace, Marion Spitzer writes of bringing a group of Palace stars up to Sing Sing for a charity performance, and Gordon being so moved by the plight of one of the inmates that she helped to get him paroled.
Gordon’s biggest mark was to come in motion pictures, where she was generally cast at the traditional Jewish mother, staring with the silent smash Humoresque (based on a Fanny Hurst novel) in 1920. In 1923 she did the film version of Potash and Perlmutter, a play she had starred in in London four years earlier. Today she may be best remembered for starring in the Cohens and the Kellys series of comedies throughout the 1920s with Charlie Murray and others. Her last film was Eddie Sutherland’s remake of Abie’s Irish Rose in 1946.
To learn more about vaudeville and performers like Vera Gordon, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.