Tanguay, Eva (1878–1947)

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Tanguay, Eva (1878–1947)

French-Canadian-born American actress and vocalist who was known as the "I Don't Care Girl." Born on August 1, 1878, in Marbleton, Quebec, Canada; died on January 11, 1947, in Hollywood, California; daughter of Octave Tanguay and Adele (Pajean) Tanguay; married John Ford (a member of her acting troupe), on November 24, 1913 (divorced 1917); married Chandos Ksiazkewacz (also known as Allan Parado, a pianist), on July 22, 1927 (annulled).

Selected roles:

appeared as Cedric Errol in Little Lord Fauntleroy, Gabrielle de Chaulus in My Lady (1901), Phorisco in The Chaperons (1903), Claire de Lune in The Office Boy (1903), Carlotta Dashington in The Sambo Girl (The Blond in Black, 1904); appeared in A Good Fellow (1906), The Follies of 1909 (1909), The Sun-Dodgers (1912); appeared as Leona Tobasco in Miss Tobasco (1914), Phonette Duttier in The Girl Who Smiles (1916); also performed in several vaudeville tours.

Eva Tanguay was born in 1878 in Marbleton, Quebec, Canada, but her family had moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts, by the time she was six. Her father died when she was young, leaving the Tanguays (two girls, two boys) in dire financial straits. However, when Tanguay was eight years old, she joined the Francesca Redding Company in the juvenile lead role of Little Lord Fauntleroy after the previous star fell ill while touring in Holyoke. Tanguay toured with the company for five years before receiving a small part in The Merry World. In 1901, she appeared at the Victoria Theater in New York in My Lady.

In 1903, she headlined in The Office Boy (with Frank Daniels) and The Chaperones. She also performed in musical comedies and vaudeville. Her songs included "I've Got to Be Crazy," "I Want Someone to Go Wild with Me," and "It's All Been Done Before but Not the Way I Do It"; another song became her theme and made her nationally famous as the "I Don't Care Girl." It was reported that she made as much as $3,500 for a one-week appearance, making her the best-paid vaudeville performer of the time. Possessing an animated stage personality, she reportedly could leave audiences with conflicting impressions of her. She had an "ability to command the unswerving attention of her audience," writes Albert F. McLean, Jr. Although one can understand how she "anticipated the flapper of the 1920s, especially in her unconventionality and her nervous desire to live," he adds, "there was a certain innocence beneath the surface crassness and aggressiveness, and a naive optimism" that infused her performances and songs.

Tanguay's personal life, however, was not as successful. She described her first marriage, to John Ford, as a joke—an impulse during an interlude in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her second marriage, to her pianist Chandos Ksiazkewacz, was annulled on the grounds that he had given a false name when they married. Furthermore, her fortune—estimated at $2 million at one point—was completely lost due to overspending and real estate speculation. She also resented her public image as the "I Don't Care Girl."

During the 1920s, Tanguay's career was active, but by the 1930s her health was failing. In 1933, she had an eye operation to remove cataracts, and by 1937 she was unable to work due to arthritis. She retired to a small home in Hollywood where she lived her last 20 years in seclusion. At the age of 68 she died of a cerebral hemorrhage and was buried at the Hollywood Mausoleum.


McLean, Albert F., Jr. "Eva Tanguay," in Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Edited by Edward T. James. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Who Was Who in the Theater: 1912–1976. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1978.

related media:

The I Don't Care Girl (78 min. film), starring Mitzi Gaynor , David Wayne, and Oscar Levant, with a fleeting appearance by newcomer Gwen Verdon , 20th Century-Fox, 1953.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan