Vaudeville & Yiddish Theater

Eddie Foy and Vaudeville: From the 1890s through the 1920s, popular variety shows, called “vaudeville,” could include comedy, music, dancers, magicians, trained animals, acrobats, plays, minstrels, and athletes. Bessie and her family loved vaudeville, especially Jewish vaudeville on the Lower East Side in New York. (See Yiddish Theater and Molly Picon below).

After crawling through a sewer to escape a 1903 Chicago theater fire which claimed 600 lives, Eddie Foy would go on to create one of the most of the most popular Vaudeville acts. From 1910 through 1923, he and his family toured the country as “Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys.”

He and his family lived in New Rochelle in a house Foy would name “The Foyer, ” which was one of the first mansions Nathan’s company painted. After Foy’s death, the Foy family donated the land where The Foyer stood to New Rochelle. The Eddie Foy Park is located at Weyman Avenue and Pelham Road.

In the 1955 movie, “The Seven Little Foys,” Bob Hope played Eddie Foy. A TV remake of the movie would follow: https://bessiespillow.com/foytv

See Bob Hope and James Cagney’s dance routine from the movie at  https://bessiespillow.com/foymovie

Molly Picon and Yiddish Theater: Jewish Families from around New York City and surrounding communities would flock to the Lower East Side to watch live theater, variety shows, vaudeville and movies in Yiddish. From serious drama to comedy, stars such as Molly Picon entertained audiences with stories that usually focused on immigrant life in America.

Molly, whose career began with a vaudeville troupe, would appear on stage, in silent films, in the “talkies,” and eventually on Broadway. True to her vaudeville background, Molly, a comedian, could sing, dance, play a variety of musical instruments and perform cartwheels, somersaults, head stands, and flying stunts. Born in 1898 on the Lower East Side, Molly, still touring in the 1970s, is best known to modern audiences for her role as matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof.

Watch Molly and her friends dance in a 1923 clip from East and West (Ost und West): https://bessiespillow.com/mollypicon
(Look for occasional subtitles in English and Yiddish.)

At 81, Molly wrote and toured with her one woman show Molly. See clips of her show: https://bessiespillow.com/piconshow