A.C. Astor (and “Sentimental Mac”)

Born this day, British ventriloquist A.C. Astor (Thomas Ferguson, 1890-1966).

Astor was born and raised in Carlisle, England. He started out performing in pantomimes, and by 1920 was a top headliner in music hall and American vaudeville (he played the Palace that year). His dummy characters included “Sentimental Mac”, “Mcginty” and others. In 1928, he recorded a Deforest Phonofilm; in the ’30s several Pathetones were filmed; they are available to watch on Youtube. In 1936, Astor bought Her Majesties Theatre in Carlisle, a top regional music hall.

In 1934, while already married to another woman, Astor began an affair with popular singer Phyllis Robbins, who was also married at the time. In 1936 they set up house together, and finally married in 1941, though they broke up numerous times over the years. They were permanently separated in 1944 and finally divorced in 1951. In addition to his frequent live performances, Astor was also popular on radio.

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