Joe Frisco: Comic, Jazz Dancer, and Railbird

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This biography of vaudeville comedian Joe Frisco captures the world of show business in its transition from the heyday of vaudeville through film and radio to the early years of television.

As Paul M. Levitt tells us, Joe Frisco in his day was so famous for his jazz dance that F. Scott Fitzgerald mentions him when describing one of Gatsby’s parties: "Suddenly one of these gypsies in trembling opal seizes a cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and moving her hands like Frisco dances out alone on the canvas platform."

Seeking to reintroduce this spontaneous and original wit to us, Levitt transforms the manuscript left by Frisco’s fellow entertainers Ed Lowry and Charlie Foy into a book as entertaining as the great comic himself. It follows Frisco’s career from his beginnings in Chicago on the midwestern circuit, through his New York heyday in vaudeville theatres and nightclubs, to his final years in Los Angeles when first film and then television came to dominate show business. Lowry and Foy, both vaudeville insiders, describe Frisco’s world, with its hotels, theatres, restaurants, clubs, racetracks, and, not least, its famous people—Flo Ziegfeld, W. C. Fields, Walter Winchell, George Jessel, Bing Crosby (who contributed the foreword to this book), even William Randolph Hearst.

Ed Lowry bought a mail-order course at fourteen, taught himself to dance, and launched a half-century career in theatre. Charlie Foy, the second child in the family troupe known as "Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys," shared an apartment and the stage with Joe Frisco for several years.


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About the author (1999)

Paul M. Levitt is the codirector of the writing program at the University of Colorado. Widely published, he has written two other theatre books: A Structural Approach to the Analysis of Drama and J. M. Synge: A Bibliography of Published Criticism.

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