A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.
Alexander Pantages expanded his theatre empire into Vancouver in January 1908 as he was building one of the biggest vaudeville circuits in the west. A typical Pantages bill consisted of several acts of comedians, trained animals, illustrated songs, popular sports figures, acrobats, drama, music, and almost any novelty act imaginable. Below are some of the more interesting ones that appeared on Vancouver’s Pantages Theatre in its first months of operation. (Follow the links for videos of some of these performers).
1. Wallace the Lion
Wallace the “untamable lion” was the star attraction for the opening week of the Pantages. According to the World, Wallace did not disappoint, showing himself to be “just as ferocious and just as dangerous as he has been heralded.” Wallace, the “largest and handsomest lion in the world,” was a big hit in circus tents and theatres from here to San Francisco, though his tamer, Frank Hall, was apparently less successful at taming women.
2. Torcat and Flor D’Aliza
Animal acts in vaudeville typically involved large and potentially dangerous African beasts, but less exotic creatures were also pressed into showbiz service, especially animals not known for their trainability, such as Alice Techow’s performing cats or Torcat and Flor d’Aliza’s “educated roosters.” Torcat and d’Aliza were billed as “European eccentriques” and had made a name for themselves as a husband/wife comedy duo in France’s Folies Bergère cabaret.The World said their show was
certainly a novel act, especially when it is considered how lacking in intelligence the average member of the chicken family is. Yet these familiar barnyard favourites do all kinds of clever tricks, such as tight rope walking, dancing, climbing ladders, pulling tiny carts, and most wonderful of all, stay in their places on the stage and do their stunts with scarcely any prompting.