Dakota Datebook

Vanities

Monday, April 16, 2012

 

Earl Carroll, New York theatrical producer, was known for his risqué productions in the 1920s. His shows were lavish with beautiful, often scantily-clad women. His lifestyle reflected some amount of this, and he was in and out of newspapers across the country.

 

In fact, in 1927, he had been sentenced to a year and a day for perjury during an investigation into a rather infamous bathtub party he hosted—a party that supposedly featured a nude showgirl sitting in a bathtub, from which she served champagne. Remember, this was still during the Prohibition era.

 

He was being taken to a penitentiary in Atlanta by train when he collapsed. It wasn’t until a few days later, reported on this date, that he regained consciousness.

 

Around that time, residents of North Dakota followed the news on Carroll with great interest, considering that his production, “Vanities,” which had run for 55 weeks on Broadway in the Earl Carroll Theatre, was scheduled to play in Bismarck at the City Auditorium, now the Belle Mehus, and then in Fargo at the Orpheum.

 

In Fargo, at least one citizen protested this to the city commission, and the city attorney was instructed to investigate and take steps to prevent the show from going on, if he deemed it necessary. He announced that unless it could be proven beforehand that the show was immoral, Earl Carroll’s “Vanities” would indeed go on.

 

The show was to feature more than one hundred performers, and was called “a girly show, a musical revue, with beauty as the keynote, beauty of feminine face and form, beauty of costume and scenery and light effects.” It was to be done in full, with “sensuous” music that had become popular, with comedians, and indeed with many girls.

 

After the show played in Bismarck, however, the Tribune reported: “That much talked of musical revue, Earl Carroll’s “Vanities,” has come and gone and Bismarck is probably none the worse for its having been here. True, some of the costumes worn by the chorus now and then were rather abbreviated, but not more so than in other productions which have been here in the past… The Vanities simply provided more than two hours of meaningless entertainment which kept the audience in an uproar most of the time. There were no outstanding songs and very little dancing other than that done by the chorus, the production for the most part being just a show of girls with an amusing skit sandwiched in while the girls were preparing for their next appearance.”

 

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

 

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune, April 9, 1927

The Bismarck Tribune, April 11, 1927

The Bismarck Tribune, April 14, 1927

The Bismarck Tribune, April 16, 1927

The Spartanburg Herald (SC), Herald-Journal – Feb 27, 1926

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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