Beyond the Jersey Shore: 1920s Snapshots From a Chorus Girl's Scrapbook
Friday April 9, 1926 I left Atlantic City to go on the road. I was in Second Year High School. I was 16 years of age on March 25, 1926. I joined the Dancing Debs. at Levoy Theatre, Milville, NJ.
So begins the scrapbook of a young Marion Lichtman as she embarked on a series of vaudeville tours that would take her across the country and back again. Marion meticulously recorded her tour schedules alongside newspaper clippings and programs of her performances with the Dancing Debutantes and the Shuron de Vries Revue. Her labor of love in carefully pasting in mementos and writing memories may not have made for an optimally preserved archival scrapbook, but it brings us her genuine excitement of being young and on tour decades later to generations that have never seen live vaudeville.
“Great bunch of fellows. Great F U N!” she writes of the Vincent Lopez Hotel Statler Dance Orchestra, which shared the bill with the Shuron de Vries Revue in their third week on the Pantages Circuit in Toronto. “Wonderful week!” is written on many a scrapbook page and, on the occasion of her 17th birthday, she simply could not contain her joy: “I also posed for my first professional pictures and oh! I was so H A P P Y.”
The Shuron de Vries Revue, described in the Reading Eagle newspaper as an “elaborate dancing musical comedy skit with seven girls and one man,” set off on the Pantages Circuit in January 1927. Pantages tours began in Canada and traveled to many of the 80+ theatres owned or operated by Alexander Pantages in Canada and the western United States. The tour undoubtedly served as a springboard for Marion’s own brief but exciting career. By the following year, she had her own billing as a dancer on a number of programs touring the East Coast and, in 1929, she joined the cast of the Broadway revue Good News, where she met her future husband, Ernest Setlowe.
NYPL received the Marion Lichtman Setlowe papers from her daughter Karen. In addition to the scrapbook, the collection includes a photograph album depicting Marion’s offstage adventures in the cities she visited on the Pantages Circuit. From hijinks with the young male performers also on tour, to poses of bathing beauties by the sea in California, the girls of the Shuron de Vries Revue appear to be having the time of their lives, and why wouldn’t they? It is hard to imagine an equivalent opportunity for the talented high schoolers of today, except perhaps the few who “make it” on reality TV competitions.
As vaudeville left a lasting impression on the teenage Marion, a stack of autographed photographs from fellow performers shows the impression she made on them. The latest dated photograph, from 1933—as her performing career gave way to starting a family—sums up her effect on others: “If all girls were as sweet and charming as you, this would be a great world.” Though neither vaudeville nor Marion’s performing days would last much longer, her papers provide an invaluable entrée into the magical world of the touring stage revue, as seen through the eyes of a young girl from the Jersey Shore.