Harry Delf: From the Footlights to the Friars

Harry Delf (1892-1964) had a hand in nearly every facet of show biz. The younger brother of Miss Juliet Delf, he attended Columbia, then went into vaudeville, where he partnered with the likes of Margaret Haney and the Dolly Sisters in the early-mid teens, and worked solo at least through the 1920s. He appeared in the Broadway shows The Whirl of the World (1914), The Midnight Girl (1914), The Cohan Revue of 1916, The Rainbow Girl (1918), The Greenwich Village Follies (1919), Jimmie (1920), and Earl Carroll’s Vanities (1926). But perhaps more significantly, Broadway began to produce shows which Delf had written. These included Some Night (1918), Sun Showers (1923), The Family Upstairs (1925, revived 1933, and made into several films), Atlas and Eva (1928), The Unsophisticates (1929-30), and She Lived Next Door to the Firehouse (1931).

Delf also made a minor mark in movies. In 1926 a silent film was made of The Family Upstairs. In 1928 and 1929, he wrote and directed six early talkie comedy shorts for Fox. These were The Family Picnic with Raymond McKee, Mystery Mansion, Meet the Family (in which Delf starred as well), At the Photographer’s (also starring himself), Bring on the Bride, and Hot Tips.  He also directed The Ladies Man with Chic Sale, penned by other writers.

The Family Upstairs was filmed three additional times. Fox turned it into the 1930 feature Harmony at Home, with Marguerite Churchill, Rex Bell,and Charlotte Henry, and also the 1939 feature Stop Look and Love, with William Frawley. In 1947 it was produced for television.

During the 1950s, Delf served as Dean of the Friars’ Club. More on the interesting Delfs can be found here. 

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.