National Variety Artists’ Annual Benefit Performance, 1941
The NVA started life in 1916 (as the National Vaudeville Artists) when Edward K. Albee set up the organisation as a union offering vaudeville artistes work security and benefits. Throughout the 1920s the organisation thrived but the decline of vaudeville itself saw a change of name and a move towards a more fraternal, supportive association. Whilst continuing their work to encourage and promote vaudeville and variety acts they also held regular charity benefit performances to raise funds for their own members and for public causes.
In 1941 the NVA celebrated their Silver Jubilee (25 years) with a benefit performance at the Manhattan Center Theatre in New York. The list of those who took part includes many acts from the heyday of vaudeville alongside actors and singers of the 1940s. Luise Rainer appeared on the bill, although the programme offers no insight into her contribution.
The acts who took part are: Big Brother Benny Roberts and his NVA Associates opened the show with the overture, followed by Billy Gould, Director of Amusements to introduce: Frankie and Joan (‘Future Vaudeville Stars’), The Harmony Kids, Miss Eva Shirley (‘Mistress of Song’), His Honor Lou Dolgoff, James Mooney presenting ‘The Thirteen Stiffs’ from Arsenic and Old Lace.
Others stars who appeared: Belle Baker, Buck and Bubbles, Balzer Sisters, George M. Cohan, Una May Carlysle, Duncan and Dodd, Harland Dixon, Lew Dolgoff, Benny Fields, Mitzi Green, Willie Howard, Joe Howard, “Juliet”, Charley King, Dell O’Dell, Olsen & Johnson, Mack Murray, Molly Picon, Rags Ragland, Ray & Davis, Martha Raye, Carl Rosini, Don Tanner, Georgie Tapps and Don Alfonso Zelaya.