Yes, Louis Sobol (1896-1986) was a “Famous Broadway Columnist” as this book jacket trumpets, if not quite as famous in a lasting way as Walter Winchell, Ed Sullivan, Damon Runyon, Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper, Dorothy Kilgallen, Mark Hellinger, Jack Lait, or Joey Adams, all of whom we’ve written about here. But we have several reasons for paying him attention which are relevant to our abiding enthusiasms:
- He actually played vaudeville! His performances were at the Palace in New York in 1932
- He made a cameo as himself in the Groucho Marx comedy Copacabana (1947)
- He starred in a series of film shorts for Universal in 1932 and 1933
- She wrote a short lived Broadway play called The High Hatters (1928), starring Robert Montgomery.
Sobol was born in what is now Ukraine, and raised in New Haven Connecticut. He started out writing for such papers as the Waterbury Republican, the Bridgeport Standard, and the New London Day before cracking New York with the occasional item in Variety, and some first person ghostwriting for celebrities like Daddy and Peaches Browning. In 1929 he took over Walter Winchell’s column in the New York Evening Graphic, switching over to the Evening Journal and the Hearst papers two years later. In addition to his long-running columns, he was on the radio for years, much like his better remembered competitors. His half dozen books include Along the Broadway Beat (1951) and The Longest Street (1968).
For more on show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on early film, read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.