February 29, 1936: Fanny Brice appears on Ziegfeld Follies of the Air with a new role. Fania Borach was born in New York City in 1891 and became an influential song model, comedian, singer, and actress (both theater and film). Her brother was also in show business and his stage name was Lew Brice. Fanny (sometimes spelled Fannie) dropped out of school in 1908 to work in a burlesque review and in 1910 joined Ziegfeld Follies. In 1921, she recorded “My Man” which became her signature song but she was also famous for “Second Hand Rose” which was also introduced in 1921. When she began working vaudeville, there was a child actress called Baby Peggy which she used as inspirations for her character, created on this day.
Brice was scheduled to appear on Follies and for a skit, Philip Rapp and David Freedman looked for inspiration in a public domain collection of sketches by Robert Jones Burdette, Chimes From a Jester’s Bells (1897). They adapted a piece about a child and his uncle. They changed the child from a boy to a girl and called the kid Snooks. Brice continued to play the role of Baby Snooks until her death in 1951 – first, on the Good News Show and then in 1940 on Maxwell House Coffee Time where Baby Snooks became a regular character. In the latter program, she co-starred with Frank Morgan (the wizard from The Wizard of Oz).
In 1944, Baby Snooks got her own radio show, having proven how many listeners would turn in to listen to her antics. Hanley Stafford played Snooks’ father taking over the role from Alan Reed who had played Lancelot “Daddy” Higgins for the Follies. Lalive Brownell was given the role of Vera “Mommy” Higgins between Lois Corbet and Arlene Harris who took over in 1945. Also in that year, Leone Ledoux got the role of Snooks baby brother, Robespierre. Danny Thomas played the daydreaming postman, Jerry Dingle who imagined himself in far more glamorous careers – e.g. circus owner or railroad conductor.
In 1945, Brice became ill and missed several shows. Instead of cancelling the show or using a stand-in of some sort, top stars of the day appeared and searched for the missing child. Robert Benchley, Sydney Greenstreet, Kay Kyser, and Peter Lorre all made guest appearances. The popular show moved to Friday nights at 8 PM on CBS. Then in 1949, NBC took over broadcasting and moved the show to Tuesday at 8.30 PM. The Baby Snooks Show continued with NBC until May 22, 1951. Fanny Brice suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died on May 29, 1951. She was 59. The show died with her.
Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?
Being a funny person does an awful lot of things to you. You feel that you mustn’t get serious with people. They don’t expect it from you, and they don’t want to see it. You’re not entitled to be serious, you’re a clown.
I never liked the men I loved and never loved the men I liked.
Affectation is a very good word when someone does not wish to confess to what he would none the less like to believe of himself. – all from Fanny Brice
Also on this day: Hammerin’ Hank – In 1972, Hank Aaron signed with the Atlanta Braves for a record salary.
Leap Day – In 1584, the first Leap Day took place.
Child Labor Law – In 1916, a new minimum age for workers was passed in South Carolina.
Run For Office – In 1932, Bill Murray was on the cover of TIME magazine.
At the Shore – In 1916, Dinah Shore was born.