- (1856-1928)A popular Irish American entertainer, Eddie Foy was mostly associated with lightweight musicals and vaudeville. His career began inauspiciously in variety entertainments in 1869, after which he toured frontier towns as a minstrel. He acted in numerous musicals from The Crystal Slipper (1888) to The Wild Rose (1902). Foy stepped into theatrical legend as the star of Mr. Bluebeard (1903), a role he was playing when Chicago's Iroquois Theatre was destroyed in a devastating fire that killed over 600 people. Foy was considered a hero of the tragedy for his attempts to calm the audience during the ensuing panic. Foy went on to perform in musical vehicles that included Piff Paff!! Pouf!!! (1904), The Earl and the Girl (1905), and Mr. Hamlet of Broadway (1908). From 1910, he returned to his variety-stage roots when he toured with his children in an act called "Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys," a popular attraction recreated in the 1955 motion picture, The Seven Little Foys. When the children matured, the act ended. Foy toured as a solo, then retired and wrote his memoir Clowning Through Life (1928). The success of that publication impelled him to return to the stage for a farewell tour despite signs of heart trouble. Audiences found him as engaging as ever with his lisping comic delivery and soft shoe dance routines. He died following a performance at the Orpheum in Kansas City, where he had first performed 50 years earlier (1878) in a honky-tonk.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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