Earl Carroll (Earl Carroll)

Earl Carroll

Theatrical Producer, Nightclub Owner. His racy “Vanities” musical revues were among Broadway’s most popular shows of the 1920s. He later pioneered in the “supper club” theatre concept. A native of Pittsburgh, Carroll entered show business in 1912 as a staff lyricist for the Feist music publishing company. After serving in the US Army Air Force during World War I, he made a fortune producing lurid stage melodramas, notably “White Cargo” (1923). In 1923 he opened his own theatre in Manhattan, named for himself, and gave rival producers Florenz Ziegfeld and George White a run for their money with his annual “Vanities” (nine editions through 1932) and “Sketchbook” revues. Eschewing sophistication for sex, these were the first shows to present full nudity on the Broadway stage and they broke box office records while scandalizing critics and moral watchdog groups. The producer was acquitted of obscenity charges in 1924 but got in more legal trouble two years later, over a “Vanities” number featuring a woman bathing in a glass tub filled with champagne. Alcohol was still illegal under Prohibition, and when Carroll falsely maintained that ginger ale was used he was jailed for perjury. Brushes with the law only enhanced Carroll’s reputation as one of Broadway’s biggest lechers. With a forgotten French wife somewhere on the sidelines, he kept a virtual harem of mistresses and forced chorus girls to audition for him in the nude, claiming he needed to judge “the sway of their hips”. He eventually settled down (more or less) with showgirl Beryl Wallace, who became his headliner and lifetime companion. In 1931, ignoring the effects of the Depression, Carroll rebuilt his theatre as a 3000-seat Art Deco extravaganza, but cost overruns and plummeting ticket sales forced it into foreclosure within six months. He then headed for Los Angeles and reinvented himself as a movie and radio producer. His films include the cult-classic “Murder at the Vanities” (1933), “Stowaway” (1936), “Love is News” (1937), and “A Night at Earl Carroll’s” (1940). He missed being his own boss, however, and sought new challenges. Not content to open a nightclub or restaurant, he wanted to combine both in a venue lavish enough to accomodate a revival of the “Vanities”. In 1938 he erected a new Earl Carroll Theatre on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, the West’s most spectacular supper club before the rise of Las Vegas. Its exterior sported a famous “painting in neon” of Beryl Wallace crowned by the slogan, “Thru These Portals Pass The Most Beautiful Girls In The World”; the interior had the world’s largest double-revolving stage and a dining capacity of 1000. Launched with a star-studded Grand Opening, it was soon the hottest spot in town. Famous patrons from Clark Gable to Betty Grable were persuaded to inscribe their autographs on blocks of cement, which were then hung on the outside wall. Carroll and his theatre kept Hollywood well-supplied with cheesecake until June 17, 1948, when he and Wallace were among the 43 who perished in the crash of United Airlines Flight 624 at Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. The couple’s ashes were buried together. (bio by: Bobb Edwards) Cause of death: Plane crash

Born

  • September, 16, 1893
  • USA

Died

  • June, 06, 1948
  • USA

Cause of Death

  • Plane crash

Cemetery

  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
  • California
  • USA

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