Emma Haig and Art “Dustbowl” Fowler

A story of strange bedfellows today, and not the first we’ve encountered in our exploration of vaudeville’s annals. And apparently content ones!

We begin with Emma Haig (1898-1939), a diminutive Philadelphia girl who began dancing professionally at the age of 12 to help make ends meet. In vaudeville she danced with partners like George White and Jack Waldron, and she appeared on Broadway in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1916, Miss 1917, Hitchy-koo (1918), The Magic Melody (1919), and The Music Box Revue (1921).

And then: tragedy. In 1922, she was starring in the show Our Nell (1922) with Mr. and Mrs. Jimmie Barry when she accidentally fell into the orchestra pit and broke her back. Doctors claimed she’d never go onstage again, but she persevered and by the end of 1923 was back in George M. Cohan’s The Rise of Rosie O’Reilly with Virginia O’Brien (not the one from the movies), Jack McGowan (to whom she was engaged for a time), Margaret Dumont, Bobby Watson, and a young Ruby Keeler. She then did Tell Me More (1925) with Eddie Dowling, Lou Holtz, Willie Covan, and Portland Hoffa. In 1927 she went to London to star in a West End production of The Girlfriend.

That’s where she met:

Art “Dustbowl” Fowler (1902-1953) was a crooner billed as “The Wizard of the Ukukele”. An Oklahoma boy, he’d toured vaudeville throughout the 1920s, which got him to a tour of U.K. music halls. Significantly one of the tunes he was associated with was “No Wonder She’s a Blushing Bride”.

Haig and Fowler were wed in 1928 and went on to open a popular Hollywood antiques shop, with many major stars as clients. Their bliss lasted for just over a decade. Died of a sudden heart attack in 1939 at the age of 41.

Fowler occupied the next several years as a bit player in westerns and other B pictures. You can see him in such things as The Singing Sheriff (1944) with Bob Crosby, and Along Came Jones (1946) with Gary Cooper. By the time of his death at age 51 he was living in Rockland County, New York.

For more on vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.