According to sources, today has been designated “National Spouse Day”, which not only seems redundant, but possibly excessive and even cruel. It’s single people who need a celebratory holiday. Marriage is an institution that has enjoyed tens of thousands of years of celebration, support, encouragement, reinforcement and semi-coercive recruitment. The virtues of being single are myriad: self-sufficiency, independence, stubborn valor, and on and on. Not that marriage doesn’t require it’s own set of virtues; just that they probably oughtn’t to be extolled at the expense of singlehood. Jesus was single, you know what I mean. (By the way, I really love my wife).
Anyway, all that aside, today seemed like a really good occasion to celebrate husband-wife teams in vaudeville and elsewhere in stage and screen. Marriage really did make things convenient for male-female teams on the road. They could split expenses, share accommodations, and be assured of constant (wink wink, nudge nudge) company during those long weeks on the road. Vaudevillians sometimes married people who preferred to keep the home fires burning, but the long separations always put strain on the relationships and frequently ended marriages.
Here are some famous married teams I thought of. Just click on the links below for more information. In no particular order:
George Burns and Gracie Allen, Block and Sully, Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone, Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa, Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields, Harry and Bess Houdini, Jim and Marion Jordan (Fibber McGee and Molly), Tim and Irene, Lunt and Fontanne, Whipple and Huston, George Walker and Aida Overton Walker, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew, Vernon and Irene Castle, Paul and Grace Hartman, William Demarest and Estelle Collete, Veloz and Yolanda, Carroll and Howe, Johnson and Dean, Percy Oakes and and Paula Delour, Ralph Riggs and Katherine Witchie, and Pepito and Joanne
Some married teams that were only together a short time include Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth, and Ginger (Rogers) and (Jack) Pepper. W.C. Fields’ wife Hattie was his assistant in his act for a time, but dropped out in order to raise their child. They never divorced. Eddie Cantor’s wife Ida was not in his act but Eddie talked about her all the time.
Some married vaudeville couples multiplied and made new little vaudvillians who joined their acts. These included George and Nellie Cohan, Joe and Myra Keaton, Reed and Hooper, Dixon and Freeman, Crawford and Broderick, Hyams and McIntyre, and John and Effie O’Connor.
Others keep occurring to me. I’ll keep adding them as they do!
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous