American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2011 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 17

Rae Samuels

1887 — 1979

Her parents were Welsh immigrants, come to the USA to work the mines, but her dad died young, when Rae was little more than newborn, the youngest of ten children, of whom three died before adulthood. A family friend and neighbor, ‘Aunt Jane,’ taught little Rae to sing and recite and she went on to amateur performances and then, as a teen, to sing in a relatives small time vaudeville act.

By 1919, Rae was a well paid ‘single woman’ in vaudeville.  She was wooed by fight promoter Marty Forkins who became her manager and husband until his death. IT was Rae who tipped Marty to a expert African American tap dancer, Bill Robinson, who was light on his feet and soon in demand in white vaudeville. Marty managed Robomnsojn until Bill’s death.

Rae was a peppy, personable performer who paced her act briskly with a mixture of dialect songs, novelty numbers and comical anecdotes and asides to the audience. Occasionally, she worked in blackface but, more usually, she dressed elegantly on stage, the better to contrast with the comic ‘rube,’ Jewish and Italian dialect numbers she sang and enacted. She retired with the death of vaudeville and lived into her nineties.