American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2011 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 24

Paul Gerard Smith

At his peak, Paul Gerard Smith had a hundred vaudeville acts working across America.  Audiences might not have recognized his name—although a few would, but if you were in show business, vaudeville or musical revue, you knew Paul Gerard Smith was one of the most successful comedy sketch writers of his day.

He started out when he was thirteen, writing a few skits and slapping together some entertainment to raise money for baseball uniforms.  The  he went to work as a stringer, then funneling news tips to reporters, finally writing ad copy for movies before the First World War called.  PGS joined and was assigned to producing shows for the Armed Services. 

When he returned to civilian life he jumped into show business whole-heartedly.  Within a year he was rising rapidly as a sketch writer; within a couple of years he was creating comedy sketches for Joe. E. Brown, Clark & McCullough and Jimmy Cagney, plus dozens and dozens of other well-known acts of the day whose names never made it into the history books.  He branched out into book shows, usually coming into them as a show doctor.  Funny Face was one of Smith’s most successful Broadway musicals.

He made the move to Hollywood and worked on a few pictures for Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, and adapted the Boys from Syracuse for the screen.  It was also time to take it easy.  For much of PGS’s life he had been a short order writer.  After he settled in Hollywood, he began to write stage plays and screen plays.  Some were better than others, some were made into good movies and others weren’t.  In Hollywood, the writer may not be a short order cook but the director is the chef.  And PGS began to write for his own pleasure.