May 24 is National Brothers Day, and we take the occasion to present you with a round-up many of the great brother acts of vaudeville.
In comedy there were the Marx Brothers, the Ritz Brothers, the Rogers Brothers, the Russell Brothers, the Kernell Brothers, the Weaver Brothers, the Howard Brothers (of The Three Stooges) and Willie & Eugene Howard (who were unrelated to the Stooge Howards). Al Jolson and Harry Jolson were in an act together at one point although for most of their careers they were bitter rivals. Sydney Chaplin was instrumental to the career of his more famous brother Charlie, both creatively and managerially.
Interestingly, the only well-known brothers harmonizing act I can think of in mainstream vaudeville is the Mills Brothers — interesting because most of the sister acts were singing duos and trios. Dance acts included the Nicholas Brothers, the Berry Brothers, the Four Step Brothers, the Condos Brothers, and the Blackburn Twins. The Six Brown Brothers were a saxophone act.
Acrobats: the Ringling Brothers, the Byrne Brothers, the Hanlon Brothers, the Roma Brothers, the Rath Brothers, the Mosconi Brothers, and the Wiere Brothers. The Miller Brothers had their own traveling Wild West Show. Sideshow included the Brothers Magri (little people), the Tocci Brothers (conjoined), and the Shields Brothers (giants). The Davenport Brothers were influential on the field of professional magic.
The Warner Brothers gave us Vitaphone which ended up preserving so many vaudeville acts for posterity. Most of the Vitaphones were produced under the direction of Bryan Foy, the oldest of the five brothers in the 7 Little Foys act.
Later, the Everly Brothers, the Smothers Brothers, the Hudson Brothers would hearken back to the old vaudeville tradition of brother acts.
To learn more about vaudeville please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,
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