American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 57

Charlotte Greenwood

1890 – 1978

Oscar Hammerstein wrote the role of Aunt Eller in Oklahoma (she was contractually unable to take the role when the show debuted in 1943 on Broadway), and most obits mentioned that she played the role in the 1955 movie. When Charlotte died at age 87, much of her early career had been forgotten. All the obits also mentioned that she was known for a series of “Letty” roles, but doubtless the obit writers had little idea of what they were—a series of inexpensively produced farces that starred Charlotte as the lean, long-legged Letty Pepper.

Her career began in tiny roles in musicals. She and Eunice Burnham, another youngster competing with scenery and props for notice, decided to form a vaudeville act. Once they decided to capitalize on the disparity in their height and play for laughs, they became a hit act. As a single, Charlotte played a singing, dancing, clowning beanpole who capped her routines with high kicks

Charlotte Greenwood enjoyed a long career in the theatre from revue to musical comedy (Cole Porter) to Theatre Guild. Her work has been captured on film (best in the Buster Keaton film, Parlor Bedroom and Bath (1931) and a series of Technicolor movies in support of Betty Grable, Alice Faye and Esther Williams. Charlotte Greenwood was one of the top female comedians of the Twentieth Century.