The Rogers Brothers: Weber and Fields Imitators

rogers bros

Originally posted in 2011. 

Vaudeville’s premier comedy team Weber & Fields had a host of imitators (Kolb & Dill among them), but none were more pernicious than the Rogers Brothers. Not only did they steal material, costumes and the format of Weber & Fields shows, but they also had the backing of major producers, competitors who would have been only too glad to ruin Weber and Fields if they could, among them Harry Kernall and Abe Erlanger. Furthermore, the team kept performing after Weber and Fields broke up, seemingly filling a psychic void for desperate fans.

The two teams had actually been friends in the early days, Gus (1869-1908) and Max (1873-1932) Solomon were actually from the same Lower East Side neighborhood as Joe Weber and Lew Fields, and came up just a few years after. They were the sons of a variety comedian named Morris Solomon. Gus had actually started out with an impression of Irish performer Pat Rooney Sr., but when Max joined the act they started doing Dutch (or German) routines at venues like Tony Pastor’s. This kind of act was very common at the time; they weren’t slavishly copying the more famous team yet. It wasn’t until Weber and Fields gave word that they were leaving Harry Kernell’s show that Kernell hired the younger team expressly to copy their act. And that’s what they did until Gus died in 1908. Their Broadway shows included A Reign of Error (1899), The Rogers Brothers in Wall Street (1899), The Rogers Brothers in Central Park (1900-01), The Rogers Brothers in Washington (1901), The Rogers Brothers in Harvard (1902), The Rogers Brothers in London (1903-04), The Rogers Brothers in Paris (1904), The Rogers Brothers in Ireland (1905-06), and The Rogers Brothers in Panama (1907).

I guess there were no hard feelings. After Gus died, and when Weber and Fields split up, Lew Fields cast Max Rogers in his 1912 show Hanky Panky! Rogers also appeared in two additional Broadway shows The Young Turk (1910) with Mae Murray, and The Pleasure Seekers (1913) with George White, and Florence Moore. He passed away in 1932 — the same year as vaudeville.

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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