In the 1930s burlesque shows had their peak in popularity, with many burlesque dancers that introduced new performances. There are many disputes about who invented what and who did it first. The only thing we’re sure of is that many beautiful women in the 1930s made burlesque the elegant art that it is today. We have already talked about some of these women, like Sally Rand, with her bubble performance and famous fan dance.
Ann CorioAnn Corio started as a chorus girl at the early age of 15. She was already a famous burlesque dancer when she decided she wanted to be a silver screen actress. She left burlesque for Hollywood, but unfortunately she couldn’t make it. After failing as a film star, she started performing in summer stock theaters. She was finally convinced to go back to burlesque by Michael Iannucci, her third husband and theater director. Ann performed in a burlesque revival show called “This Was Burlesque,” which premiered in Boston in 1961. The show went on for 30 years touring across America and was filmed twice by HBO.
Sherry BrittonSherry Britton started stripping at the age of 15 at the People’s Theater on the Bowery in Lower Manhattan. She was known to have a body to die for and amazing knee length brown hair. She was 5’3” tall and she had a 18″ waist. She was also a belly dancer and she acted on Broadway. She is known for her stripping performances in clubs, her trademark being a classical music soundtrack, long gowns and crowns. She once stated that she despised burlesque, and she sounded quite bitter about the whole thing: “There seemed to be two of me. One, onstage, undressing. The other saying, “What are you doing, taking off your clothes for these morons?”
Sally RandSally Rand began her career as a silent movie actress. Apparently she wasn’t a great actress because when sound was introduced into films in the 1920s, she lost her career. Sally was a resourceful woman, so she decided to strip to make more money. There’s an interesting story behind her fan dance. Apparently she was given short notice for a dancing job and she bought those vintage fans planning to make a dress out of them. She ran out of time and she invented the fan dance. When she performed the dance at the Chicago World’s Fair she was arrested four times in a day!
Gipsy Rose LeeGipsy Rose Lee is maybe the best known burlesque dancer. Movies and musicals have been written about her. She was funny, smart and innovative and she was known as the “intellectual stripper.” She started dancing when her more talented sister eloped. She had to sustain herself and her mother, but her burlesque career began by accident. While on stage, her strap broke and her dress fell to the floor: a burlesque legend was born. She also had a brief career in Hollywood in the late 1930s, but she returned to burlesque in the 1940s.
Faith BaconFaith Bacon allegedly invented the fan dance, just like Sally Rand. Apparently she came up with the idea because at the time, it was only legal to have nude women on stage if they acted as unmoving statues. This only allowed a certain type of performance, so she came up with the idea of being covered when she was moving and dancing, and quickly uncover while she was standing still. The easiest way to do it was by using the big fans. She was too arrested for this dance, so she began wearing small chiffon panties.
After she had an unfortunate accident on stage she was left with deep scars all over her legs and her career began to fade. She committed suicide in 1956 at the age of 46. Which one of these 1930s burlesque dancers do you love the most? Did you know all of them? Let us know in the comments below. Photo credits: Pinterest.com