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Cathrine Plays the Palace

Having just completed a 40-week tour on the Orpheum circuit to much acclaim, Cathrine Countiss found herself on the vast stage of the Palace Theatre, at Broadway and 47th St., in March of 1914. Opened next to Times Square just the year before, the Palace soon became the pinnacle of the vaudeville world. In fact, the phrase to play the Palace meant you had definitely hit the big time in the show business.

And, vaudeville was an exhaustion of variety in entertainment. For a mere 50¢ you could take in a full show bill of multiple acts in one of more than 2,000 available seats at the Palace to savor “every luxury and refinement that good taste, combined with unlimited resources, can command.”

To appear at the Palace was a sure ticket to enhance your reputation and future bookings. Just a few of the headliner acts who would appear included such luminaries as Ed Wynn, Lillian Russell, Ethel Barrymore, Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, the Marx Brothers, Eddie Cantor, and Oklahoma’s Favorite Son, Will Rogers – humorist, cowboy, political wit, and trick roper extraordinaire.

Cathrine always said that vaudeville had a “spirit of comradeship [that] does not seem to exist to the same degree in any other field of stage endeavor. I know of no other branch of the show business…where there is so much genuine helpfulness and kindly feeling…” So, it was no surprise to hear her tell of her encounter at the Orpheum Theatre in Des Moines where she shared billing with that same Will Rogers.

It seems that she was in the wings one night watching him perform his lariat twirling tricks to the great delight of the audience. After taking a dozen or more bows, he made a mad dash to the wings to try and drag her on the stage. Being thwarted in this amiable play he announced to the audience: “That was Miss Countiss. I wanted her to take a bow with me. Oh, she isn’t a bit haughty just because she’s a regular actress. She speaks to me all the time and walked half way through the alley with me after the matinee today.”

The audience roared and shouted with laughter!


Images: New York Star; New York Herald; Wikimedia Commons

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