April 6, 2023

Episode 103: More Scandalous Gertrude Hoffmann

Episode 103: More Scandalous Gertrude Hoffmann


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 My guest again this week is Sunny Stalter-Pace whose fascinating new book is titled:

Imitation Artist — Gertrude Hoffmann’s Life in Vaudeville and Dance.

Choreographer, producer, director, and dancing star, Gertrude Hoffmann was a close colleague and key collaborator with neatly all the legendary figures of early Broadway including Florenz Ziegfeld, Oscar Hammerstein I, the Shubert Brothers, and George M. Cohan. But, unfortunately Gertrude Hoffmann has been left out of most of the history books, at least until this book came out.  

On the last episode Sunny shared the story of Hoffmann’s journey from teenage dancing star in San Francisco, to her marriage to arranger and composer Max Hoffmann, and her early success in the roof garden theaters of New York where she become the first woman to receive billing for choreographing a Broadway musical. 

As we left off, Gertrude’s star was rising and she was capitalizing on her skill for mimicry by doing impressions the greatest stars of her day, both female and male, and sometimes impersonating them in the same show with those stars. But it was her next venture that makes her one of the most famous women in America when she takes on the role of “Salome” and performs her scandalous dance of the seven veils. That’s where we pick up our conversation today. 

As you will hear, following this “succès de scandale,” Gertrude Hoffman’s amazing career will include introducing the dances of the famed Ballet Russe to America (without their permission!), becoming a headlining vaudeville star, creating her own troupe of dancers —The Gertrude Hoffmann Girls — who become an international sensation, as well as starring in and/or choreographing a string of hit 1920’s Broadway musicals that include From Broadway to Paris, Artists & Models, A Night in Paris, and A Night In Spain.

And as Sunny Stalter-Pace tells us her one of her legacies is to demonstrate that women were involved in the creation of the Broadway musical from the very beginning.

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