Franklin Theater Vaudeville Program

      I found this vaudeville program (circa 1910) for $5 at an antiques fair. It never ceases to amaze me how much these old programs can reveal with a modicum of research.

        Some quick research confirmed my hunch that the Franklin was located in Chicago; it stood at 31st and Calumet from about 1909 until the 1940s when it was demolished, which makes this program one of its earliest. It also proves that the Franklin was originally built for vaudeville and only later converted into a movie theater when silent and sound movies overtook vaudeville in popularity.

        What makes this program such fun for me is the tales it tells about vaudeville performers. The 1910 line-up started with a musical group playing popular melodies, then something called Motion Views—probably a short silent film. A female vocalist named Edna Snow was in the third slot. I believe that this was the same Edna Snow who was the daughter of circus people: an equestrienne mother and a gymnast father. I found a reference to the mother nursing her daughter Edna who died of stomach cancer in 1918. It was a short and tragic career for poor Edna.

       I drew a blank on Chris Lane, a singing comedian. He was probably a flash in the pan. But next comes a short skit with 3 actors, one of whom is Jack Hawkins. I googled all three and up turns Jack thirty years later in 1940, playing a part in “King Lear” with an astonishing cast that included theater greats (Sir) John Gielgud, Cathleen Nesbitt, Jessica Tandy, and Paul Scofield, all of whom were far younger than Jack. Of course, they weren’t such stars back then. Now it could have been a different Jack Hawkins playing that Shakespeare part, but somehow, I don’t think so. The age is right, the profession is the same, and vaudeville performers regularly traveled back and forth across the Atlantic.

       Who were the Sisters McConnell? I tracked down a few trade advertisements for them, one that says: “Two of the most clever and versatile young ladies in the profession.” They had a routine of singing, dancing, and telling jokes that kept them on vaudeville stages for at least several years.

      Last come the Holman Brothers, Swedish gymnasts who mixed comedy with their routine. I’m pretty sure it was slapstick comedy, as opposed to telling jokes. Why? Because of their position on the program. The last act was almost always a “dumb act” (dumb as in silent, not stupid) because the audience began to leave during the last act, a rude practice that made lyrics or dialogue unintelligible.

       The Franklin was probably a Big Time vaudeville theater, something I deduced from the statement at the bottom: “2 shows nightly.” The classy Big Time circuit offered one of two shows per night; Small Time could involve as many as 5 or 6 shows a day.

       See at the bottom where it says “First show tickets good for first show ONLY”? Obviously the Franklin had a problem with patrons buying one ticket and staying for both shows. Tsk, tsk.



Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 9:19 am  Leave a Comment  

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