The Stroud Twins, Claude and Clarence with a pair of identical Texas brothers born on March 26, 1907. When they were 19, they developed an acrobatic comedy act for vaudeville and toured the middle west and southern regions before finally travelling to New York and the Big Time, by which time the act had evolved from knockabout gymnastics to comedy crosstalk and patter.
The Stroud Twins have become slightly notorious in vaudeville annals for breaking up the popular act of Bert and Betty Wheeler. Clarence had an affair with Betty. Betty divorced Bert, who went on to even greater fame as part of a movie comedy team with Robert Woolsey. Meanwhile, Betty married Clarence and joined the Stroud Brothers act. The third wheel apparently hindered the success of the team. Their progress stalled until Betty and Clarence divorced four years later. Through much of the ’30s, Clarence was married to Beth Dodge, of the Dodge Sisters.
In the early ’30s the Strouds were in two Hollywood films: Ace of Aces (1933) and Sing and Like It (1934). By 1936, vaudeville was dead but the team got a real choice booking when they were asked to perform on a bill with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy at the Rainbow Room. The relationship stood them in good stead the following year when Bergen hired them to replace an ailing W.C. Fields on the Chase and Sanbourn Hour, giving them their greatest platform and fame. They were on the show through 1940.
In 1940, the pair performed in the short novelty film Twincuplets with the Brewster Twins. Once more Clarence fell in love with a member of another two act and broke it up. He married Gloria Brewster, who retired from show business. It appears to have been an unwise gamble, for by 1943, Clarence was married to singer Ann McCormack. meanwhile, Barbara Stroud went solo and had some minor success on her own. Barbara also briefly dated Claude Stroud, although that seems to have been more of a publicity stunt. Claude, incidentally, had previously been married to Thelma White, from Reefer Madness.
After that, the team played mostly nightclubs for the balance of their career, although they did appear on the tv variety show Cavalcade of Stars in 1950. And thanks to the reader who just let me know that Claude Stroud is an extra in All About Eve, in a cocktail party scene about 38 minutes into the film.
Clarence passed away in 1973; Claude 12 years later.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, please consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,