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Vaudeville

VAUDEVILLE

VAUDEVILLE. Vaudeville flourished as a form of variety theater from the 1880s to the late 1930s, when it succumbed to competing forms of popular entertainment, particularly "talking" pictures. Recent historians have portrayed vaudeville as a place of struggle over class, race, and gender relations and identities in industrial America. Vaudeville also saw the application of consolidation and franchise techniques to the organization of popular entertainment. Benjamin Franklin Keith may have been the first American entrepreneur to use the term vaudeville, adapted from the French vaux-de-vire, referring to popular songs from the French province of Normandy (the valleys of Vire), or from voix de ville (voices of the town).

Keith is also credited with refining the vaudeville format. He and a partner opened a "dime museum" in Boston in 1883, and then expanded their operations to include singers and animal acts. By the mid-1890s, Keith and his subsequent partner, Edward Albee, owned vaudeville theaters in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Providence. According to Keith, vaudeville differed from variety shows, burlesque, minstrel shows, and sideshows in its intentional appeal to "higher" cultural tastes and audiences that included women and children. The Keith vision of genteel popular entertainment resonated with Progressive Era acculturation anxieties, racialist ideologies, and campaigns to sanitize and organize American cities.

Although performers and audiences may have been disciplined to a bourgeois cultural standard on the "big-time" Keith and later Orpheum circuits (the western circuit that merged with the Keith enterprise in 1927), the "small-time" vaudeville theaters nourished their own local audiences, often working class, immigrant, or African American, and their own kinds of humor. While there was an all-black circuit, managed by the Theatre Owners Booking Association (TOBA), from the beginning African American performers also appeared in white-owned vaudeville (which blacks called "white time"). The Whitman Sisters maintained a popular African American vaudeville company that included Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. In a brutally racist society, African American performers and audiences found ways to resist segregation on stage and in the theaters.

When vaudeville's popularity began to fade in the 1920s, some of its stars carried vaudeville forms into the new media of radio, nightclub entertainment, films, and later, television. These included George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Sarah Bernhardt, Eubie Blake, Sammy Davis Jr., W. C. Fields, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Phil Silvers, and Ethel Waters.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

George-Graves, Nadine. The Royalty of Vaudeville: The Whitman Sisters and the Negotiation of Race, Gender, and Class in African American Theater, 1900–1940. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Kibler, M. Alison. Rank Ladies: Gender and Cultural Hierarchy in American Vaudeville. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Slide, Anthony. The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

MinaCarson

See alsoBurlesque .

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"Vaudeville." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Vaudeville." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/vaudeville

vaudeville

vaudeville (vôd´vĬl), originally a light song, derived from the drinking and love songs formerly attributed to Olivier Basselin and called Vau, or Vaux, de Vire. Similar to the English music hall, American vaudeville was a live entertainment consisting of unrelated songs, dances, acrobatic and magic acts, and humorous skits and sketches by a variety of performers and acts, each on stage for about five minutes. From humble origins in barrooms and "museums," vaudeville became the dominant attraction in American popular entertainment, playing in hundreds of theaters throughout the United States. It flourished from 1881, when Tony Pastor gave the first "big time" vaudeville show in New York City, until 1932, when its greatest center, New York's Palace Theatre, abandoned live shows and became a movie theater. Such headliners as George M. Cohan, Harry Houdini, Eva Tanguay, W. C. Fields, Fay Templeton, Will Rogers, Ed Wynn, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Irene Franklin, Fred Allen, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, and the Marx Brothers began their careers playing the vaudeville circuits. Beginning in the 1890s there also was an invigorating influx of performers from England and France who were a major influence on the growing sophistication and high quality of vaudeville. The popularity of radio and motion pictures caused vaudeville's decline, and many established performers moved into the new media. Television, however, brought about a revival of vaudeville-style revues.

See C. W. Stein, ed., American Vaudeville As Seen by Its Contemporaries (1984); S. Staples, Male-Female Comedy Teams in American Vaudeville, 1865–1932 (1984); A. Slide, ed., Selected Vaudeville Criticism (1988); Trav S. D., No Applause—Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous (2005).

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"vaudeville." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Vaudeville

VAUDEVILLE


Vaudeville, a light, comical theatrical entertainment, flourished at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century. Its success, like that of organized baseball, was caused by the greater amounts of leisure time and money that industrialization afforded people. The word vaudeville is derived from an old French term for a satirical song, vaudevire, which is a reference to the Vire valley of France, where the songs originated. In the United States vaudeville acts performed variety shows, using music, comedy, dance, acrobatics, magic, puppets, and even trained animals. This form of stage entertainment was based on popular acts that could be seen in British music halls and bar rooms during the nineteenth century.

Vaudeville had made its way to the United States in the 1870s, when acts were performed in theaters in New York, Chicago, and other cities. Two early entrepreneurs in the entertainment form were American theater managers Benjamin Keith (18461914) and Edward Albee (18571930), who opened the Bijou Theatre in Boston in 1885. Eventually they operated almost four hundred theaters, including New York City's Palace Theater, the gem in the Keith-Albee crown. Troupes traveled the circuit of nearly one thousand theaters around the country. As many as two million U.S. citizens a day flocked to the shows to see headliners such as comedians Eddie Cantor (18921964) and W.C. Fields (18801946), singer Eva Tanguay (18781947), and French actress Sarah Bernhardt (18441923). Programs combined a variety of music, theater, and comedy to appeal to a wide audience. Scriptwriters attracted immigrant audiences by using ethnic humor, exaggerating dialects, and joking about the difficulties of daily immigrant life in the United States.


During the first two decades of the twentieth century, vaudeville was the most popular form of entertainment in the country. In the 1930s, just as New York opened the doors of its famous Radio City Music Hall, which was intended to be a theater for vaudeville, the entertainment form began a quick decline. Motion pictures, radio, and, later, television took its place; numerous vaudeville performers parlayed their success into these new media. Among those entertainers who had their origins in vaudeville acts were Rudolph Valentino, Cary Grant, Mae West, Jack Benny, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Will Rogers, and Al Jolsen.

See also: Amusement Parks, Baseball

during the first two decades of the twentieth century, vaudeville was the most popular form of entertainment in the country.

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"Vaudeville." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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vaudeville

vaudeville (Fr., either from vaux de vire or voix de ville).
1. In late 16th cent., song with amorous words as sung in the valleys (vaux) near Vire or catches sung in the streets of towns.

2.   In 18th cent., the term came to mean a song with different verses sung in turn by different singers, and this meaning was incorporated into operatic terminology, e.g. a ‘vaudeville finale’, as in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

3.   In 19th cent., meant short comedies interspersed with popular songs, as in Fr. revues.

4.   In late 19th and 20th cents., a synonym for a variety show or mus.-hall, particularly in USA.

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"vaudeville." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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vaudeville

vaude·ville / ˈvôd(ə)ˌvil; -vəl/ • n. a type of entertainment popular chiefly in the U.S. in the early 20th century, featuring a mixture of specialty acts such as burlesque comedy and song and dance. ∎  a stage play on a trivial theme with interspersed songs. ∎ archaic a satirical or topical song with a refrain. DERIVATIVES: vaude·vil·lian / ˌvôd(ə)ˈvilyən; -ˈvilēən/ adj. & n.

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"vaudeville." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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vaudeville

vaudeville light popular song XVIII; light stage performance with songs XIX. — F. vaudeville †typical song or play, theatrical piece with rhymes, alt. of vaudevire, f. Vau de Vire ‘valley of Vire’, name of a region of Calvados, Normandy, the songs of which had a vogue in XV.

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vaudeville

vaudeville US equivalent of the British music hall variety entertainment. Its rise and fall followed the same pattern as its European counterpart, having its heyday in the late 19th century and eventually succumbing to the cinema's popularity.

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vaudeville

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