James Barton

dancer-comedian / 1900s-1940s

James Barton - illustration from A Pictorial History of Vaudeville

(edited from Wikipedia)

James Barton (November 1, 1890 - February 19, 1962) was an American vaudevillian, stage performer, and a character actor in films and television.
Born into a theatrical family in Gloucester City, New Jersey, Barton began performing in minstrel shows and burlesque houses throughout the country in 1898.
His years of experience working with African American performers led to his becoming one of the first jazz dancers in America.

After working with repertory companies in the South and Midwest, he made his Broadway debut in the musical revue
The Passing Show of 1919 in a role originally intended for Ed Wynn.
He frequently was the highlight in otherwise-mediocre productions, and a critic for the Daily News noted,
"Whenever the book failed him, he shuffled into one or more of his eccentric dances."
Barton's other theatre credits include Sweet and Low in 1930, Tobacco Road in 1933,
Bright Lights of 1944 (which ran only four performances), The Iceman Cometh in 1946,
and Paint Your Wagon in 1951.

James Barton - illustration from New York City Vaudeville

While appearing on Broadway, Barton also achieved the highest pinnacle of status in vaudeville, headlining at the Palace Theater
on Broadway not once but eight times, from March 1928 through April 1932.

Barton's film career was also concurrent to his stage performances. It began in the silent era, in 1923,
and he appeared in a number of Paramount short subjects in 1929.
On television he appeared in The Ford Television Theatre, Lux Video Theatre, Studio One, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, Playhouse 90,
Kraft Television Theatre, The Rifleman, Adventures in Paradise
, and Naked City.

Frontier Circus - 1962

From Vaude to Video (1951 / pg.336 / re:actors' strike benefit performance of 1919):

"The benefit had an odd by-product in that it lifted a previously obscure comedian and dancer, James Barton, into overnight fame.
Allowed to ahow his stuff on a stage overrun with million-dollar talent, Barton clowned and hoofed his way to a tremendous ovation and repeated curtain calls.
Acknowledging this acclaim of fellow artists, which he knew had stamped him from that night as bigtime caliber, Barton further panicked the customers
by reprising that all time show biz bon mot when he stated, "Thanks for the use of the hall."


1909 B.F. Keith 5th Avenue Theatre Vaudeville-Kinetograph Flier

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