Flo Bert: Bride of El Brendel

Tribute today to Flo Bert (Florence Bert, 1898-1981), sometimes rendered as Flo Burt, or Flo Sophie Bert, but never apparently as “Flaubert”. She is not to be confused with African American opera singer Florence Cole-Talbert, also known as Flo Bert, or with the Flo-Bert Awards, which is a tap dance prize named in honor of Florence Mills and Bert Williams. Got all that?

The lady we write about today sang and whistled in vaudeville, was in a show called The Suffragette Revue, and was later the vaudeville partner of El Brendel starting around 1913 (the pair married in 1924). Like El Brendel, Bert was from Pennsylvania. She appeared with him at big time venues like the Palace and in the Broadway shows Cinderella on Broadway (1920) and The Mimic World of 1921, in addition to recording several sides of jazz and blues songs (some are available at this writing on Youtube). She appears to have been tiny: she billed herself as “Four Foot Nine of Ragtime”.

With El Brendel you can see Flo in four movies: the 1929 Vitaphone short Beau Night; I’m from Arkansas (1944) with Slim Summerville, Iris Adrian, Maude Eburne, Cliff Nazarro, Al St. John, et al; the low budget horror film The She Creature (1956) with Chester Morris and Tom Conway; and Edward Finney’s Laffing Time (1959). El Brendel was to make many more films without Bert; might have been better if it was the other way ’round!

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