Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s all the way up to the early 1930s. The origin of the term vaudeville is sometimes explained as being derived from the phrase “voix de ville”, meaning voice of the city. The performances were made up of separate and unrelated acts grouped together. Types of acts included dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, impersonators, jugglers, acrobats, and more.
Vaudeville was developed from many different sources, including concert saloons, freak shows, dime museums, and burlesque. However, it eventually evolved into its mature form, known as Polite Vaudeville. Known as the “heart of American show business”, vaudeville was one of the most popular forms of entertainment for several decades.
Some were lured by bigger salaries and easier working conditions, including the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields and Jimmy Durante. Some of those who joined in vaudeville’s later years were Jack Benny, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr., Red Skelton and the Three Stooges.