Attention paid today to stage and screen star Dan Dailey (1915-1978). No relation apparently to earlier star Dan Daly, but like his differently spelled namesake, Dailey performed in minstrelsy**, vaudeville and on Broadway. The handle must have been evocative to older folks in the audience.
Dailey’s father ran a hotel for show folk in Long Island. Dan was six when he first went on stage, singing “Here Comes Danny O’Neil” in a minstrel show. He evolved into a hoofer in vaudeville, burlesque and cruise ships, leading to a stint as Ray Bolger’s understudy in On Your Toes (1936). This led naturally to getting cast in the Broadway shows Babes in Arms (1937) and Stars in Your Eyes (1939).
Dailey’s early Hollywood films included Dulcy (1940), The Wild Man of Borneo (1941), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Lady be Good (1941), Panama Hattie (1942), and This is the Army (1943). Then came World War Two service in Italy, after which he returned to star in things like Mother Wore Tights (1947, with frequent costar Betty Grable), Give My Regards to Broadway (1948), My Blue Heaven (1950), Call Me Mister (1951), I Can Get it for You Wholesale (1951), The Pride of St. Louis (1952), The Kid from Left Field (1953), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954) and Pepe (1960). John Ford was a particular fan, casting him in When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950), What Price Glory? (1952), and The Wings of Eagles (1957).
Dailey returned to Broadway in 1965 for Catch Me if You Can with Tom Bosley, followed by a 1968 tour of The Odd Couple and a run as a replacement in the original production of Plaza Suite (1969-70). At around the same he starred in two-short lived TV series, the sitcom The Governor and J.J. (1969-70), and the crime show Faraday and Company (1973-74), which was one of the short-lived “fourth series” in the NBC Mystery Movie (in rotation with Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife). His last credit was the role of Clyde Tolson in The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977) with Broderick Crawford.
To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.