American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2011 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 31

Eddie Tamblyn

Eddie’s immortality came through his son, Russ Tamblyn, the athletic dancing star of many Hollywood musicals such as West Side Story, Thom Thumb and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Eddie was a talented dancer, too, but his youthful appearance and short stature typecast him as a juvenile in Broadway musicals like Good News and Follow Thru, and he spent years, literally, with these shows on the road.

The growing realization that the Great Depression was going to be a long-run production, that the public was turning away from big-time vaudeville and the bright-eyed, All American light-hearted musical of the 1920s and early 1930s to the less-expensive talking pictures and radio, meant that show business was changing fast and radically.  The trick for a performer was to switch gears.  When Hollywood began to binge on musicals, dancers knew it was time to head west.

Eddie Tamblyn made a number of Hollywood movies, and for a time he enjoyed featured performer billing.  But he couldn’t seem to break out of the pack of Hollywood hopefuls who, like him, were escaping Broadway and vaudeville.  Gradually the jobs got fewer, less important, and finally meaner.  Being a stage juvenile is not an annuity for old age.  Neither is being a dancer.  They are incompatible with aging.  Yet Eddie had a fine wife and talented children who made successes in and out of show business.  His granddaughter, Amber, is a TV soap star.