Black Magic: A Pictorial History of Black Performers in America by Langston Hughes & Milton Meltzer (353 pp, 1967, Bonanza Books, NYC, ISBN #0-517-170205). This copiously illustrated survey of Negro entertainment spans more than a century, from “plantation days” to movies and television to opera; thoughtfully and gracefully written.

Hot from Harlem: Profiles in Classic African-American Entertainment by Bill Reed (276 pp, 1998, Cellar Door Press, POB 35749, LA, CA 90035-0749), ISBN #0-966-1449-0-2). This slim volume is jam-packed with information, insight and interviews. At $12.95, it is a bargain and worth more than some books three times its size and price. A smartly written survey of black vaudeville, musical comedies, jazz and nightclubs.

Jazz Dance by Marshall & Jean Stearns (see Dance books)

Showtime at the Apollo: 50 Years of Great Entertainment from Harlem’s World-Famous Theatre by Ted Fox (310 pp, 1983, Holt, Rhinehart & Winston, NYC, ISBN #0-03-060533-4). The Apollo outlasted all its competitors who were well-established before it opened because the Apollo was well-managed and gave its customers what they wanted. It pursued a vaudeville/variety policy for longer than any major theatre in the USA, white or black, right up through the dominance of R&B, Soul music and stand-up comedy.

Blues Who’s Who (see Song-and-Dance)

 

COMEDY

There are more books about comedy and comedians that there are about vaudeville, so we shall list only a handful of those we admire most.

Who’s Who in Comedy: Comedians, Comics and Clowns from Vaudeville to Today’s Stand-Ups (517 pp, 1992, Facts on File, NYC, ISBN #0-8160-2338-7). This may be the most factual and insightful of the many encyclopedic books about comedians. Although it spans Weber & Fields to Jerry Seinfeld, the post-WWII entries are more numerous, but there are a lot of funny folk included here that are absent elsewhere.

 

Comedy Teams by Leonard Maltin (344 pp, 1970/1974, Signet/New American Library, NYC) This modestly produced paperback is invaluable for the fans of Laurel & Hardy, Marx Brothers, Burns & Allen, Olsen & Johnson, Ritz Brothers, Clark & McCullough, Three Stooges, Wheeler & Woolsey, Abbott & Costello, Martin & Lewis and as many more obscure teams.

The Great Clowns of Broadway by Stanley Green (236 pp, 1984, Oxford University Press, NYC, ISBN #0-19-503471-6). Mr. Green knows his subjects, likes them and writes well about them: Bea Lillie, Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields, Ed Wynn, Willie Howard, Victor Moore, Jimmy Durante, Joe Cook, Bobby Clark and Bert Lahr. But where are Bert Williams, Miller & Lyles, Leon Errol, Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Savo? Still, those he does salute, he does proud.

AVM

American Vaudeville Museum

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