For National Best Friends Day: Some Best Friends of Vaudeville

Today is National Best Friends Day, a worthy occasion to celebrate, especially these days, when I imagine that many a friendship has been strained by the challenges of the times. Vaudeville, with its propensity for performing teams, spawned many a close friendship, and so we share this brief glimpse on the topic today. (Note that I obviously left out brother acts and sister acts and husband-wife teams and/or those incorporating a romantic relationship, different beasts altogether).

The gents in the photo above are of course the comedy team of Clark and McCullough. We foreground them because this year (2022) marks the centennial of when they achieved fame on Broadway in the 1922 edition of Irving Berlin’s Music Box Revue. Friends since boyhood, their friendship and their professional relationship both ended in tragedy in 1936, with McCullough’s suicide. Another centennial worth celebrating is the 1922 debut of the song “Oh! Mr. Gallagher, Oh! Mr. Shean”, performed by Gallagher and Shean in the Ziegfeld Follies that year, although those two men, while playing good friends onstage, had a contentious relationship off it. Onstage friends weren’t always chummy offstage, and some, while good professional friends, found themselves fighting with each other a great deal. The nature of the beast.

Some of the other great vaudeville friendships/teams included those of Harrigan and Hart, McIntyre and Heath, Weber and Fields, Walker and Williams, Smith and Dale, Montgomery and Stone, and Duffy and Sweeney. Of the great vocal duos, one friendship that stands out conspicuously is that of Van and Schenck. There were also scores of Tin Pan Alley songwriting teams; that of Kalmar and Ruby is one that springs to mind particularly for its members being fast and loyal friends. And then there is the great producing partnership of George M. Cohan and Sam Harris, such close pals that they were next door neighbors for a time, and are buried next to one another in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Laurel and Hardy had not been a stage team, but were paired for the movies, as were Wheeler and Woolsey. Some radio teams include Lum and Abner, Stoopnagle and Budd, and Bob and Ray. Later screen teams include Abbott and Costello, Hope and Crosby, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Allen and Rossi, and Rowan and Martin.

You’ll find dozens more teams amongst these posts in this section of Travalanche.

Oh! Also, you can hear me talk about some of these teams on Will Friedwald’s Clip Joint Tonight! Click here to join at 7pm (Eastern). Passcode: 746312

Happy National Best Friends Day!