Toby Claude: The Eccentric Lilliputian

Say hello to the 1,702nd vaudeville performer we have written about on Travalanche.

Toby Claude (Harriette Mary Kavanaugh, 1877-1962) was the Dublin-born daughter of English burlesque performer Angelina Claude. A May 1899 issue of English Illustrated Magazine tells us that she went in for Phyllis Rankin as Fifi in The Belle of New York that year. The production brought her to New York and Broadway and put her amongst a cast that include Mlle Dazie and English actor William P. Carleton, with whom she appeared jn numerous other shows and to whom she was wed through 1903. This was followed by The Cadet Girl (1900) with Bessie Wynn, Dan Daly, and Adele Ritchie; The Prima Donna (1901), The Supper Club (1901) with George Fuller Golden a 1902 revival of Floradora; The Belle of Broadway (1902) with Bond, Donald Brian, et al; and The Baron Fiddlesticks (1902).

Claude stood under five feet tall but had a big personality which suited her for the vaudeville stage. She toured big time circuits (Keith etc) as a singing single for the next couple of decades getting as far as Australia by 1910. A brief scandal involving another woman’s husband and his kid put her back in the headlines in 1915, though she did her patriotic duity with enlistment drives when the U.S entered W.W. I two years later.

In the mid ’20s she briefly gave the pictures a tumble, playing supporting roles in William de Mille’s Just a Wife (1925) with Adolphe Menjou; The Clinging Vine (1926) with Leatrice Joy and Tom Moore; For Alimony Only (1926) with Joy, Clive Brook, and Lilyan Tashman; No Control (1927) with Harrison Ford, Phyllis Haver, and Jack Duffy; and Turkish Delight (1927) with Julia Faye, and May Robson.

Though only 50 she seems to vanish from public life at this stage. It was a time of change. Vaudeville would soon be dead, and talkies were replacing silents. She may chosen this juncture to retire, for if she went back to live theatre or into radio, we as yet have found no account. Her death in Los Angeles came 35 years after Toby Claude’s last known credit.

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