Blue Vaudeville

Sex, Morals and the Mass Marketing of Amusement, 1895–1915


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About the Book

This work reveals the often racy, ribald, and sexually charged nature of the vaudeville stage, looking at a broad array of provocative performers from disrobing dancers to nude posers to skimpily dressed athletes. Examining the ways in which big-time vaudeville nonetheless managed to market itself as pure, safe, and morally acceptable, this work compares the industry’s marketing and promotional practices to those of other emergent mass-marketers of the vaudeville era in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Included are in-depth examinations of important figures from the vaudeville stage such as Annette Kellerman and Eva Tanguay. The work attempts to address historical context as one means of understanding these performers with an appreciation for their rebelliousness. It discusses censorship and content control in the vaudeville era, and concludes with an analysis of film’s part in the fall of vaudeville. Many photographs, cartoons, and other illustrations are included.

About the Author(s)

Author and scholar Andrew L. Erdman’s essays have appeared in Theatre Studies, The Psychoanalytic Review, The Theatre Annual, The American Journal of Psychoanalysis and elsewhere. He lives in California.

Bibliographic Details

Andrew L. Erdman
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: 28 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007 [2004]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3115-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1329-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Introduction      1
1. “Dressed in the Form of Art” The Censorship and Curtailment of Popular Entertainments      21
2. “Clean, Great, and National” The Mass Marketing of Amusement      43
3. “Of Pleasing Face and Form” The Sexual and the Sensual on Stage      83
4. “Wild Woman” Eva Tanguay as Temptress and Sexual Rebel      127
5. “The Signal of Distress” Film and the Fall of Vaudeville      163
Chapter Notes      169
Selected Bibliography      187
Index      193

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Recommended”—Choice
  • “Persuasive…book has plenty of things to recommend it…illustrations are well-chosen…writing is lively, clear, and free from theory-speak”—Theatre Survey