The Girls Of The Chorus – 1920

The Girls From The Chorus of Always You, A 1920 Musical Comedy

chorus-girls-1920-broadway-show-always-youThere’s really no reason to show this photograph other than it portrays an eternal theme – trying to get your big break on Broadway. Most chorus girls toil in anonymity for years without finding fame and fortune.

Unfortunately there is no identification on the back of the photo, other than the play name.

Always You, a musical comedy in two acts ran from January 5 until February 28, 1920, for a total of 66 performances.

Checking the cast through the IBDB the ensemble (chorus girls) include: Rose Cardiff, Virginia Clark, Elinore Cullen, Lillian Held, Irma Marwick, Helen Neff, Marietta O’Brien, Mildred Rowland, Emily Russ, Memphis Russell, Marvee Snow and Beatrice Summers.

Which six are pictured?

I’m not sure who is who, but I believe Memphis Russell is third from right and another one of the women is Marietta O’Brien (second from left) who has an interesting story.

After Always You, Marietta O’Brien appeared in a number of musical plays and revues. She also posed nude for famous Ziegfeld Girl photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston. In 1928 O’Brien married Ned Jakobs, the producer of the play she was starring in, The Houseboat On The Styx.

The only problem with that was Ned was already married to Dorothy E. Huyett. who asserted to be Jakobs common-law wife.  Ms. Huyett fought for several years to prove she and Jakobs were indeed married, and in 1935 the court found in favor of Ms. Huyett. By that time Marietta and Ned had a son. Marietta ‘O’Brien Jakobs died May 2, 1959 at the age of 66.

One of the other women in the chorus, Lillian Held was driven to suicide just five months after Always You closed.

The New York Times theater critic praised the show saying, “Always You is full of melody, jazz, girls and comedy, all of the right kind if the delight of the audience which viewed the first performance last night at the Central Theatre goes for anything.”

The Times critic also pointed out that “the lyrics of these songs are more clever than those of the average musical comedy.”

There is a good reason for those “clever lyrics.” What makes this show very notable is that it marked the Broadway debut of 24-year-old Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote the book and lyrics for the play.

Composer Richard Rodgers became the other half of perhaps the greatest writing team in Broadway history: Rodgers and Hammerstein. The pair had such hits as Carousel, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s partnership ended with Hammerstein’s death in 1960. Their legacy is assured with their work having won the Pulitzer Prize, 15 Academy Award Oscars and 34 Tony Awards.

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