R.I.P. Vaudeville Scholar Arthur Wertheim

We were very sorry to learn the other day, a year after the fact, of the passing away of vaudeville scholar and author Arthur Frank Wertheim (1935-2020). In all fairness to ourselves in missing the news, Wertheim passed in November, 2020, two days before Thanksgiving, two weeks after the election of Joe Biden, in the middle of the Covid pandemic. Things were going on. This nice obituary ran in the Los Angeles Times a month after his passing.

Appropriately, I learned that he had died from fellow vaudeville scholar Frank Cullen. I had reviewed both authors’ useful vaudeville books in this March 2007 issue of American Theater Magazine (I also wrote about a third vaudeville book in that article; not sure why I circled the mention of that one in the attached clip). In addition to Vaudeville Wars, I later reviewed Wertheim’s multi-volume exploration of the life and career on W.C. Fields here and here and here. While we had corresponded a little, the one time we met in person was at this 2015 event celebrating the centennial of Fields’ debut in the Ziegfeld Follies.

Other Wertheim books you way wish to explore include Will Rogers at the Ziegfeld Follies (he also edited and published the Will Rogers papers in several volumes) and Radio Comedy (later donating his research materials for the latter book to the UC Santa Barbara Library). Wertheim was a Ph. D. whose specialties were American Studies and Women’s Studies. He taught for many years at the University of Southern California, and later held a post at UCLA. You can read his full story here.