American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 48

Leon Errol

During Twentieth Century show business there have been many comedians who had a drunk act as part of their repertoire.   James Barton, Jack Norton and Dusty Fletcher were among the greats along with Leon Errol.  Errol was known as “Rubberlegs” for the way he walked-or staggered.  His precarious balance always threatened to collapse but instead he tottered onward, like an exasperated rooster, flapping his arms and his head pecking forward.

Like Barton, Leon was a dancer.  Born in Australia and apprenticing in every form of show business Down Under from the circus to Shakespeare, Leon and his wife and dance partner, Stella Chatelaine, came to San Francisco about 1905.  When audiences failed to understand either his accent or his coster (Cockney) songs, he found success first as an eccentric dancer and physical comedian in beer halls, burlesque, vaudeville and musical revue.

The peak of his career was spent on the Broadway stage, starring in five Ziegfeld Follies and many other revues and musical comedies.  He went to Hollywood with the advent of sound films and remained there for the rest of his life and career.  Although nearly fifty years old when he began filming, Errol made nearly 50 features and 98 short films in his career.  Though he never duplicated his success in film that he enjoyed on stage, Leon Errol had a long and busy career and proved to be one of the great comedians.