On Vaudeville and Screen Comedian Fred Cady

You know the old saying — when you research Weber and Fields, everything is connected to Weber and Fields. Well that would be true in any case, but here’s an example where it may be truer than usual. I’m researching Weber and Fields for liner notes to a CD release of their early comedy disks later this year. But coincidentally, a few weeks back when I was putting together my post on Barney Bernard, I became aware of the existence of Fred Cady, whom you’ll learn about below. My maternal grandmother was a Cady. It’s not a common name, and American ones all tend to be able to trace their lineage back to Nicholas Cady (1627-1712) of Watertown, Massachusetts, our immigrant ancestor. From that common root for example, I am related to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her father Congressman Daniel Cady, and the actor Frank Cady.

My Cady branch (like all my mother’s ancestors) settled in Northeastern Connecticut. One of the things that leads me to suspect Fred Cady may be more closely related however is the possibility that he may be from Western New York (the earliest references to him are from that part of the country). Several branches of my mother’s ancestral families moved from Connecticut to Western New York, including the Bugbees, among the founders of the area around Chautauqua, and the Herindeens of Geneva, whom we wrote about here.

My first reference to Fred Cady is in a knockabout comedy team in vaudeville with one Herbert Warren; they played Niagara Falls in 1897. The following year the trade papers printed a notice that Warren had injured himself during a performance in Elmira, New York. The partnership seems to have evaporated after that; perhaps Warren was permanently incapacitated.

By 1900, Cady is in a touring production of Weber and Fields’ Fiddle Dee Dee, along with Charles Rice, who was to become his comedy partner. By 1902, the pair were SUBBING for Weber and Fields, that is PLAYING them in the touring version of the show, allowing the genuine stars to go back to perform on Broadway. (interestingly, Kolb and Dill performed this same function in the West Coast edition of the show). I find references to Rice and Cady performing in Washington DC and Boston and other major cities over the next few years. In 1904 they performed with WeberFields burlesque company at the Casino Theatre in Seattle. This  photo from then:

The team appeared together well into the following decade, retaining the Dutch (faux German) comedy stylings and a pretty close Weber and Fields look but no longer with the official affiliation. In 1906 they are simply described as “German Comedians”during their engagement at the Orpheum in Denver. In 1907 they performed in a Broadway show called Two Islands with Barney Bernard.

This image of the team is from 1911

Rice married sometime prior to 1914 and retired (at least for a time) and Cady went solo in burlesque under producer Max Spiegel, headlining the company, called “The Strolling Players”. I find references to them playing cities like Washington DC and Philadelphia.

In 1920, Cady was with George White’s Scandals of 1919 when it came to the Columbia Theatre in San Francisco.

This item from Buffalo Courier-Express shows the cast of an old timers show in Detroit in 1932. Cady is in lower right hand corner. Rice is next to him. Eva Tanguay is standing

The vaudeville and burlesque circuits both died when the Great Depression kicked in, and Broadway was in a bad way too. Cady moved out to Hollywood at this stage and was a bit player in films. As was Rice. As the notice above shows, they had reunited for an old-timers show in Detroit. As a pair they appeared in the films Broadway to Hollywood (1933), In Old Chicago (1937) and This is My Affair (1937). Without Rice, Cady appears in small roles in Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936) by Frank Capra, and Way Out West (1937) with Laurel and Hardy! Teaming again with Rice, he appeared in a WPA vaudeville revue called “Two a Day” in 1938.

The last reference I have to him is in a 1950 issue of Billboard; he appeared in a Moss Hart play called Light Up the Sky at a venue called Las Palmas in Hollywood.

NOW: I carefully qualified the above. This is show business. Who is to say “Fred Cady” didn’t change his name to Cady from Cohen? And at this stage, I know nothing about his actual identity: when and where born and under what name, or when and where died. Anyone who could clear that up, would get a gold star!

One side note before we leave the subject, however. There was another famous Fred Cady! A totally different guy, though about as fascinating. This Fred Cady (1885-1960) was from Asbury Park, New Jersey. He’d been a circus strongman and a gymnast, then became a famous Olympic diving coach (1928, 1932, 1936 and 1948). He coached Buster Crabbe, among others. He was also known for his painting and sculpting, skills reportedly taught to him by his father (a talent shared by another illustrious relative Harrison Cady). Fred Cady married one of his swimmers Viola (Hartman) Cady, who appears in the 1936 comedy short Free Rent with Monte Collins, Tom Kennedy and Bobby Burns, as well as the 1936 musical The King Steps Out (as a mermaid) with Franchot Tone. Viola lived to be 102, and dove into a pool on the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno! 

To find out more about vaudeville and stars like Fred Cady consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous