Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mae West: Jack Howard

An old vaudevillian who worked for years with MAE WEST has escaped attention. Until now.
• • Written by and starring Mae in the title role, "Diamond Lil" enjoyed its first successful Broadway run from 9 April 1928 — September 1928 at the Royale Theatre.
• • Jack Howard has the distinction of being the only original cast member from the 1928 production who also appeared in each and every Broadway revival of this show.
• • In "Diamond Lil," a Bowery-situated melodrama, the roly-poly singer played the role of Bill.
• • Born as John E. Jenkins, the performer had adopted the stage name of Jack Howard by the time he made his debut on The Gay White Way during the springtime of 1913 in "The Geisha," a musical comedy. Often cast as an authority figure, Howard was seen in "Little Ol' Boy" [1933] in the role of a Penitentiary Guard; in "Hold Your Horses" [1933] as Diamond Jim Brady; during the 1939 World's Fair as P.T. Barnum in "American Jubilee"; in "High Kickers" [1941—42] as a Police Chief.
• • From 1942—45 he gave up acting to become Chief Engineer on a Liberty ship before heading back to Times Square, where he was seen in the short-lived flop "A Place of Our Own" [1945] and Mike Todd's "Up in Central Park" [1947].
• • Burlesque and the Bowery • •
• • Before his featured roles in the legit, Jack Howard was a vaudeville and burlesque headliner from 1905. In 1920, he copyrighted his comedy sketch "On the Bowery." [Perhaps Mae West went to see this since she was fascinated by the old glory days of the Bowery.] In April 1931, Howard wrote "Lonesome Life," a song he performed as well as licensed.
• • Mae West was loyal to the variety artist veterans who came up the ranks in show business with her — — and this long-standing hire, who reclaimed his role in the 1949, 1950, and 1951 mainstage productions of "Diamond Lil," is but one example.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1928 • •
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Mae West.

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