Carrie De Mar: First to Change Costume Between Numbers

Scranton-born Carrie De Mar (1875-1963) was an influential star of vaudeville and musical comedy around the turn of the last century.

De Mar’s theatrical debut was with the Chicago Opera House, where she performed with David Henderson’s extravaganza company. In 1891 she joined the company of Hallen and Hart and began to appear in their musicals. She married Joseph Hart the following year, at the tender age of 17. The Hallen and Hart company disbanded in 1894.

In 1902, De Mar appeared in Hart’s Broadway hit Foxy Grandpa, an adaptation of the popular comic strip. Her sister Fleurette De Mar danced in the same production. Carrie’s performance in the show was captured in several Biograph film shorts made that year.

De Mar grew to be a star in her own right. Without Hart, she appeared in the Broadway shows Seeing New York (1906), and The Land of Nod and the Song Birds (1907). She was also popular as a singing comedienne on the vaudeville stage both in the U.S. and in the halls of Europe. De Mar is credited with popularizing the big time stunt of changing her costume and backdrop for each song in her act.

De Mar retired circa 1918. Hart died three years later. For a time she continued to live at the Waldorf Astoria, then she moved to a home in the Bronx owned by her brother-in-law, where she was ensconced until his death in 1947. She entered a Catholic order in 1950.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube