Jeanne Devereaux: One of the Last Vaudevillians

At the age of 11, Jeanne Devereaux (Jean Helman, 1912-2011) became an international ballet star.

Born in St. Louis, she was given the responsibility at a young age to help support her family through her dancing. As a child prodigy she was booked in big time vaudeville, music halls of Europe and more austere cultural venues from the 1920s through the 1940s. Though uncredited, she appeared in two films: Are You There? (1930),with Beatrice Lillie, Olga Baclanova and Lloyd Hamilton; and Kiss Me Again (1931), an adaptation of Mademoiselle Modiste with Bernice Claire, Edward Everett Horton, Walter Pidgeon, June Collyer, and Claude Gillingwater. In 1935 she danced in a Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium, the first ballerina to be so honored since Anna Pavlova in 1912. In the 1940s she headlined at Radio City Music Hall. In 1946 she led the first USO tour of Japan.

In 1952 she retired from performing to marry Thomas Perkins. They moved to Pasadena, where she started the Devereaux Ballet Arts School, which was in operation until 1964. Her remaining decades were spent lecturing, conducting research, and being engaged in historic preservation. When she died in 2011, she was just shy of 100 years old, one of the last vaudeville performers to leave the earth.

To learn more, check out this newish book, Jeanne Devereaux: Prima Ballerina of Vaudeville and Broadway. 

 

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