Arren and Broderick: Musical Madcaps

I first became aware of the team of Arren and Broderick through their appearance in Broadway Melody of 1940 with Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, and George Murphy. In that film, Charlotte Arren (1911-1986) has a humorous turn as an auditioning singer. Arren’s husband and performing partner was piano man/ composer Johnny Broderick (1893-1977). Broderick was from Sharon, Pennsylvania; Arren, from Chicago. They started out in vaudeville, made it to Broadway in Earl Carroll’s Sketchbook (1935), then appeared in the Vitaphone shorts The Doorman’s Opera (1935) and A Fat Chance (1939). They also appeared in Calling All Stars (1937) with the Nicholas Brothers, Buck and Bubbles, and Billy Costello. When vaudeville dried up, Arren and Broderick appeared in nightclubs from the 1940s at least through the 1960s, in resort areas like Las Vegas and Florida. They also did a turn in Jerry Lewis’s vaudeville revival at the Palace in 1957. Broderick was a member of ASCAP. His best known song was “A Star Stood Still”. At the present writing there are clips of the team on Youtube — Arren is very funny in a very Jerry Lewis-like way, lots of mugging and face pulling and pseudo-operatic vocal pyrotechnics. It was a nut act. To their credit, they seem to have taken it as far as it could have gone, although I am interested to note they were never booked for television.

To learn more about the history of vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous