Leon Errol: Versatile Rubber-Legged Comedian – by David Soren

This collection comprises primarily two scrapbooks describing the stage career of the comedian Leon Errol (1881 or more likely, 1876-1951), on the vaudeville circuits in the Northwest and then in New York with the Ziegfeld Follies. There are also later publicity photographs of Errol from Culver Pictures, First National Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Paramount Pictures, including roles from “Sally”, “A Lunatic at Large”, “Dancing Co-Ed”, and “Princess O’Hara.” Miscellaneous papers include correspondence from Chet Dowling that accompanies photocopies about the Ziegfeld Follies and the role of Abe Erlanger as a financial backer for Florenz Ziegfeld, as well as information about Errol’s career.

Thttps://oldhollywoodincolor.com/category/ziegfeld-follies-on-the-air/he first scrapbook consists of newspaper clippings, playbills, programs, and handwritten notes from 1904-1906, documenting the Errol’s early career in the Northwest and West Coast as part of the Edward Shields vaudeville company. Its cover has a label for “Gerald and Errol, German DialectDavid Soren Collection Comedians.” There are two pages of handwritten text – one of sailor lyrics, and one of a short stage bit – and a loose sheet of handwritten comedy lines.

The second scrapbook documents Errol’s career on Broadway, including performances in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1911, 1912, 1913,and 1914 along with his wife, Stella Chatelaine. There is a program from August 1910 of their comedy performance “A Complicated Affair” with The New Jersey Lillies; that performance was staged by and largely created by Errol. The bulk of the scrapbook is news clippings. There is also a New York Star cover from October 26, 1912 featuring Errol along with Bert Williams and Ida Adams in a scene from the Ziegfeld Follies; and an undated playbill from The Player for the New Jersey Lilies Co., featuring Leon Errol as principal comedian, Stella Chatelaine as “The Rag Dancer”, and others. Leon Errol’s time with the Ziegfeld Follies was as a stage director as well as a principal comedian.


Bert Williams with Ida Adams and Leon Errol in the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.


Errol and Bert Williams (1872-1922) teamed up in four Follies to become the first notable “white and black race” act in mainstream American show business. They wrote the sketches themselves, and Errol portrayed the fumbling master and Williams, the wily servant. It concludes with coverage of his production “Hitchy Koo 1918”, sponsored by Raymond Hitchcock, in which he introduced Ray Dooley of vaudeville’s “tumbling Dooleys” to Broadway.

The scrapbooks were donated to the American Vaudeville Museum by Dale Jones and Valerie Speaks of Long Beach in 2004. The other materials are from a variety of sources.

Biographical Note

Leon Errol (1876 or 1881?-1951) was born in Australia, and began performing in college, circus, Shakespeare and light operas while still there. He migrated to the U.S. by 1904 with his dance partnehttp://www.ebay.com/itm/ERROL-LEON-LEON-ERROL-VOL-1-DVD-NEW-/391495201621r, Stella Chatelaine (1886-1946). He performed cockney songs and eccentric dance in variety saloons and partnered with Pete Gerald as “Gerald and Errol”, featuring German (“Dutch”) or Irish dialect comedy, ragtime piano, burlesque boxing, and a trained bulldog named Buck. They played alongside Gale Dauvrey and Alf T. Lane in “A Wife’s Folly”, an Edward Shields Company comedy drama, ca. 1904, in Baker City, Oregon. The trio of Gerald, Errol and Dauvrey performed in Walla Walla, Washington in 1904. Errol was stage manager for the Orpheum Theatre in Portland, Oregon during the 1904-05 season. He also performed in their productions, directing a group known as “Errol’s Burlesquers” which includes future Keystone comedian Roscoe Arbuckle. Errol performed in numerous productions at LaVern’s Park in Walla Walla, and at Shields’ Park in Portland during this time. He and Will Gross, as “Errol and Gross”, performed ragtime musicals. In 1906 Errol was traveling with Zinn’s Travesty Company, which performed in San Francisco in 1906 and was there when the earthquake hit.

http://www.art.com/products/p15400886-sa-i3737988/mexican-spitfire-at-sea-lupe-velez-marion-martin-leon-errol-harry-holman-1942.htmLeon Errol and Stella Chatelaine married in 1906. By 1911 they had arrived in New York with their burlesque comedy show, The Lilies or The Jersey Lillies. At Abe Erlanger’s (Ziegfeld’s financial backer) insistence, Leon was soon engaged by Florenz Ziegfeld in his Broadway debut, “The Winsome Widow”, and then in the Ziegfeld Follies (1911-1915), in which Stella Chatelaine also performed. He co-produced and performed in two shows of “Hitchy Koo”, the second in 1918. Errol was known for his dialect roles, which he originally developed to camouflage his strong Australian accent, as an eccentric dancer-physical comedian and for his comic gait as a “stage inebriate” or other eccentric role. He is especially remembered for his long-running series of short comic films and the Mexican Spitfire series (with Lupe Velez) for RKO Radio Pictures, beginning in 1934 and continuing until his death in 1951.

For a typical vaudeville comedy routine involving Leon Errol and Lou Costello of Abbott and Costello fame see this clip:


box folder

59 1 Scrapbook 1, 1904-1906 Note: fragile; see reference photocopy in Box 60

59 2 Scrapbook 2, 1910-1918 Note: fragile; see reference photocopy in Box 60

box folder

60 1 Papers, miscellaneous

60 2 Photographs, ca. 1925-1940s

60 3 Film Fan Monthly, no. 109-110 ( ), July-Aug. 1970

60 4 Scrapbook 1, (reference photocopy), 1904-1906

60 5 Scrapbook 2, (reference photocopy), 1910-1918

Name: Errol
Topics: Comedians