May Vokes: From Vaud to “Venus”

Just a few lines this morning about comic character actress May Vokes (ca. 1882-1957), whose interesting credits I have occasionally come across.

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Vokes started out in school theatricals, and from thence to Broadway, where by 1903 she was in A Fool and His Money with Arnold Daly. She seems not to have been related to Harry Vokes of Ward and Vokes, whose real last name was Laughlin in any case, although like that team she did tour vaudeville with her own sketches.

Vokes’ main claim to fame was Broadway, where she performed in over a dozen productions (often as comic maids), including The Quaker Girl (1911) with Olga Petrova, and, most famously The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood, in both the original 1920 production (which ran for over two years) and a 1937 revival, which proved her last hurrah. It’s add to me that she wasn’t cast in any of the movie versions, given what a splash she had made as the terrified maid. But she did appear in two other movies: Janice Meredith (1924) with Marion Davies and W.C. Fields, et al., and an intriguing independent feature called Get That Venus (1933) with Ernest Truex, Harry Davenport, Jean Arthur, Tom Howard, Molly O’Day, Wesley Barry, and Donald MacBride.

At the time of her death in 1957 Vokes had been living in Stamford, Connecticut for many years.

For more on vaudeville and vaudeville veterans like May Vokes, please consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.

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