Frank Whitman: The Dancing Violinist

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Frank Whitman was often billed as  as “The Dancing Violinist”, “The Stepping Violinist”, “The Wizard of the Violin” and in 1926 his Loew’s Circuit billing was “The Fiddler of Infinite Surprises”. There are references to him performing his act as early as the mid 1890s; he seems to have retired or passed away around 1930.

In his performances, Whitman would bow the violin with various objects, including a bottle, and a horn which he simultaneously tooted. As his name suggests, he would dance while he fiddled. He also told jokes in his patter and for his big finish, bowed the violin through his legs in a most suggestive manner — we might think it more innocent if he weren’t leering and winking at us like a creep while he did it. His 1928 Vitaphone short Frank Whitman: That Surprising Fiddler, in which we can see him do all these things, is his main legacy today.

If he is the same “celebrated violinist” named Frank Whitman mentioned in the April 30, 1921 issue if Billboard, he was the half-brother of Charles A. Trexler, long time property manager for Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, and probably originally from Reading, Pennsylvania.

To learn more about vaudeville history including performers like Frank Whitman, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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