Arthur Prince and Jim: A Naval Vent Act

The ventriloquism act of Arthur Prince (1881-1948) was novel in that it was naval. In an act called “Naval Occasions” he played a ship’s officer; his dummy “Jim” was a sailor. It was, needless to say, an unusual gimmick, oddly macho for a music hall act. Also interesting was the SIZE of Jim, much larger than the conventional vent dummy. His feet actually touched the ground and he was seated next to Prince, rather than on his lap. Prince smoked a cigar while the act was performed, a difficult feat of coordination that truly made it seem that Jim was moving independently of the man who pulled the strings.

Prince was originally from London. He broke in his act with several summer seasons at a Welsh beach resort before debuting it in London in 1902. Soon he was touring music halls all over the U.K. He also came to the States and played American vaudeville venues such as Hammerstein’s Victoria. In 1912, he gave a Royal Command Performance. During wartime of course, his act gained special topicality from which Prince benefitted. You can see a couple of Pathe shorts of his act on Youtube at present. I heartily recommend it!

For more on vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.