SHOW BUSINESS

FRANKIE RICHARDSON
aka
FRANK RICHARDSON

Frank Richardson

A native of Philadelphia, Frank Richardson's show business career spanned five decades and saw him performing in minstrel shows, vaudeville, on records, in movies, on stage in theaters, on radio, and in nightclubs. Billed as Frank Richardson in at least eight movies made by Fox in 1929 and 1930, and on a 1924 record released on Victor, he also periodically billed as Frankie Richardson in the 1910s and 1920s. After leaving Hollywood and returning to the Philadelphia area, he was billed exclusively as Frankie Richardson, and performed locally as late as December of 1961.

He was born Francis Joseph Richardson in Philadelphia on September 6, 1898, according to his draft card, dated September 11, 1918. He was one of 8 children born to Walter and Elizabeth Richardson, only four of whom were still living when the Census was taken in 1910. The Richardsons lived at 1712 North Howe Street in Philadelphia's 19th Ward at the time of the 1900 Census. By 1910 they had moved to 2836 Agate Road in Philadelphia and were still at that address through most of the 1910s. Frank Richardson married Adele Boyer in 1919. The January 1920 Census shows Frank and Adele Richardson living in an apartment at 2037 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia. This marriage produced no children and the couple divorced in 1933.

Attracted to performing at an early age, Frank Richardson found work at the age of 8 with Dumont's Minstrels, billed as "The Wonderboy Tenor". He later found work with Emmet Welch's minstrel show at Atlantic City, quite possibly working with Camden's Joe Hamilton, who also worked with Dumont and Welsh in these years. By the early 1920s he had stepped out on his own, billing himself as "The Joy Boy of Song", and on  occasion, where he thought his blackface material would play better, billed himself as "The Ace of Spades". He appeared in theaters on the vaudeville circuit all over the United States all through the 1920s. 

Frank Richardson recorded three songs for the Victor label. On September 27, 1923 in New York he recorded Carolina Mammy and Bebe, with an unknown pianist accompaniment. While a composer is not noted in Victor's records, this may be the same song that Irving Kaufman recorded with the Ben Selvin Orrchetra as Carolina Mammy. In any event Carolina Mammy and Bebe was never released, and the master is on record as having been destroyed. 

On October 10, 1924 Richardson recorded an Andrew B. Sterling composition, Ukelele Lou, singing and playing the ukelele himself and joined by Anthony J. Franchini on guitar and Frank Ferera on steel guitar. This recording was released as Victor 19503 on a 10" 78 rpm record, the format of those times. 

Frank Richardson returned to the studio one more time for Victor, on October 27, 1924 singing the Fred Rose tune Red Hot Henry Brown at the Victor studio in Camden, New Jersey, accompanied by pianist Frank E. Banta, who played on scores of Victor recordings between 1916 and 1929. Three takes were laid down, but the song was never issued on record, and the master was also later destroyed. Red Hot Henry Brown was a very popular tune at the time, recorded by many of the top artists of the day and did well sales-wise as sheet music and on player-piano rolls. Victor released an instrumental version of Red Hot Henry Brown by Busse's Buzzards, a great small group from the Paul Whiteman band, led by trumpet player Henry Busse and this has a nice solo by Joe Venuti on violin. Other noteworthy artists who recorded Red Hot Henry Brown include Miff Mole, Ray Miller, Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, Margaret Young, the Golden Gate Orchestra, and the Georgia Melodians. Click on these links to hear each artist's version.

In 1927 as Frank Richardson made a film appearance in a short called, appropriately enough, "The Joy Boy of Song". He was soon called to Hollywood, where he appeared in eight films, almost exclusively as a singer.

His films, in the order of their release, were Fox Movietone Follies of 1929, Masquerade, Sunnyside Up, Let's Go Places, Happy Days, Men Without Women, High Society Blues, and New Movietone Follies of 1930. 

Frank Richardson's last film was completed early in 1930. He had not returned to the Philadelphia when the census was taken in April of 1930. His wife Adele was then living at 7233 Radbourne Road in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. Frank Richardson soon returned to Philadelphia. Billing himself as Frankie Richardson, he worked steadily for the next 30 years as a performer and master of ceremonies, and apparently produced a few shows himself. 

In 1933 he was named in a breach of promise suit which was happily resolved when his Adele divorced him and he married the woman who had sued him, Emily Jean Graham, who had appeared in Earl Carroll's Vanities as Joan Williams. This marriage was apparently a happy one, producing two sons, Walter and Francis Joseph Richardson Jr.

Frankie Richardson is known to have headlined in Washington, Nebraska, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, He appeared at dance marathon held at the Central Airport on the outskirts of Camden, New Jersey in 1932. In 1936 he was the Master of Ceremonies at the carnival held at the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Company's hall, working with Baby Rose Marie, best remembered after she grew up as Rose Marie, a co-star on the Dick Van Dyke television show.

As early as the spring of 1940 through 1955 Frankie Richardson was engaged at a club originally called the Lexington Casino and later simply as the Lexington at 7600 Roosevelt Boulevard in northeast Philadelphia. In 1960 and as late as December of 1961 Frankie Richardson was performing at the Polish Eagles club in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Frankie Richardson passed away on January 31, 1962..

World War I Draft Card

Philadelphia Inquirer - July 9, 1922

Trenton Evening Times - March 25, 1923

Philadelphia Inquirer - June 11, 1923

Springfield Republican - December 13, 1923
Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield Republican December 14, 1923
Springfield, Massachusetts

Ukelele Lou - 1924

Click to Enlarge Label

Warner Brothers, using the Vitaphone sound-on-disc process, films "Frank Richardson, The Joy Boy of Song" which is released on February 17, 1928.

As of December 2013 this film has not been reissued.

November 1927

May 25, 1929

Fox Movietone Follies of 1929

This movie, sadly, is lost.... no prints are known to exist. A musical comedy with a cast full of talented people who, for the most part, never went on to great stardom, but whose faces are familiar to those who enjoy films of the the 1930s and 1940s, including Lola Lane, Stepin Fetchit, Sharon Lynn, Arthur Kay, Warren Hymer, and Dixie Lee, who is best remembered as the wife of Bing Crosby. Frank Richardson is billed as "Singer" and his number was "Walking with Susie". This also was child star Jackie Cooper's first film.

July 14, 1929

Masquerade

Another film where Frank Richardson is billed as "Singer" and I do not know what numbers he appeared in. Of the other members of the cast, Leila Hyams went on to make some wonderful movies, and J. Farrell McDonald appeared in 329 other movies, mostly in small roles.

December 25, 1929

Sunnyside Up

 

Frank Richardson finally got some speaking lines and billing in this hit musical from 1930, once again working alongside Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Sharon Lynn, Marjorie White and El Brendel. A huge hit in its day, it was revived by popular demand and was still in theaters in December of 1933, long after it's initial release. Frank Richardson and Marjorie White, a wonderful comic actress who sadly was killed in a car accident in 1935 are featured in "You've Got Me Pickin' Petals Off of Daisies" is a hoot, and you can see it below on this web-page. Miss White's last film role was with the Three Stooges in Women Haters, she also appeared in two Charlie Chan films and would work with Frank Richardson again in one more Fox musical. Frank Richardson also sang the closing number of Sunnyside Up, a reprise of If I Had A Talking Picture Of You, which Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell had performed earlier in the film. Jackie Cooper also appears in this film.

You've Got Me
Picking Petals Off Of Daisies
Words and Music
Sidney Mitchell, Con Conrad & Archie Gottler

February 2, 1930

Let's Go Places

A musical comedy directed by Frank Strayer, this film featured stage star Joe Wagstaff along with Lola Lane, Sharon Lynn, Dixie Lee, Frank Richardson and a few other Fox players. Wagstaff had starredin Broadway in George M. Cohan's "Billie" and was signed by Fox, but only appeared in two films. Sadly, no copies of this film are known to exist.

February 13, 1930

Happy Days

Another early sound musical and only the second film to be released in 70mm widescreen, I've never seen the entire film, but I'm going to have to make a point of finding this one..... the cast is simply amazing. Frank Richardson is billed simply as "Minstrel show performer" in this one, in the musical number "Crazy Feet", which you can view from this page. 

A comment on at imdb.com really says is all: 

"Crazy Feet" made the whole movie worthwhile. Adorable Dixie Lee burst out of a modernistic background, which featured chorus girls, in silhouette, in letters featuring the name of the song - at one point girls came down from the ceiling, suspended on swings, showing their "crazy feet". Dixie Lee was married to Bing Crosby and her guidance really helped him on the road to success. She has a wonderful "jazz oriented" voice and she even does a chorus of scat!!! Chorus girls pile out of giant shoes, Tom Patricola does an eccentric dance, Frank Richardson leads a chorus of clowns - did I mention the beautiful chorus girls!!!"

Frank Richardson also had another number in this film, another big production number, titled Mona. A video clip can be seen below.

One of those chorus girls was Betty Grable.. in her first film appearance. Other members of the cast of note... and it is a long list, include Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Victor McLaglen, Marjorie White, Stewart Erwin, George Jessel, Will Rogers, El Brendel, one-time world heavyweight champion James J. Corbett, Warner Baxter, Edmund Lowe, J. Farrell McDonald, Sharon Lynn, Frank Albertson, and Camden, New Jersey's own Ann Pennington..... and I've probably missed a couple of other familiar faces and names. 

Crazy Feet
Words and Music
Sidney Mitchell, Con Conrad and Archie Gottler

Mona
Words and Music
Sidney Mitchell, Con Conrad and Archie Gottler

February 9, 1930

Men Without Women

An action drama concerning a submarine trapped at the bottom of the sea, this film was written and directed by John Ford, and featured Kenneth MacKenna, Frank Albertson, J. Farrell MacDonald, and Warren Hymer among others. Frank Richardson appears uncredited as the Singing Sailor in Shanhgai. Another uncredited actor was a young John Wayne, who had been appearing in bit roles in John Ford's movies since 1928. Ford and Wayne, of course went on to make many more movies together.

March 23 4, 1930

High Society Blues

Frank Richardson had another off-camera singing role in this Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell vehicle which also featured veteran actore Lucien Littlefield and Louise Fazenda.

May 4, 1930

New Movietone Follies of 1930

Frank Richardson's last movie paired him once again with the delightful Marjorie White in has the feel of a sequel to Sunnyside Up, less Gaynor & Farrell. El Brendel received top billing in this film. Brendel is not well remembered today but was quite poplar in his time, a former vaudeville comedian whose trademark was his fractured Swedish accent. For your listening pleasure Farnk Richardson's number Here Comes Emily Brown can be heard by clicking the link. Enjoy!!!

 

 

Camden Courier-Post
June 2, 1932

Central Airport

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Reading Eagle

October 3, 1932

Blessed Event
Lee Tracy
Mary Brian
Dick Powell
Walter Winchell

 

 

 

 

San Diego
Daily Times

November 2, 1933

Seattle Daily Times - December 24, 1933




 

 

 

 

 

She sued him for $100,000 for breach of promise---but
 instead of battling in court he up and married her

 

LEFT:
Joan Williams, who became Mrs. Frankie Richardson after her breach of promise suit got a surprise ending.

RIGHT: 
Frankie Richardson and his first wife, Adele Richardson, who divorced him after the lawsuit was filed, and made possible his marriage to Joan.

By Madelin Blitzstein

IN the spring. when if We are to believe the poets. "a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." a titian-haired, ultra-smartly clad show-girl strolled into the offices of an eminent attorney and proceeded to paraphrase the sentiment of an immortal American ballad in words that ran something like this:

Frankie and Joanie were lovers. 
Oh lord! how they could love,
Swore to be true to each other, true as the stars above.
He was my man but he done me wrong.

But instead of the violent manner in which the heroine of the time-honored song wanted to square things with her man, the modern lady wanted cold $100,000 in cash to help heal her broken heart.

The lawyer obediently filed the necessary papers; the judge had the accused gentleman arrested on a capias and released on bail; and the scene was set for one of those sensational and theatrical breach of promise suits in which the attractive female of the species usually triumphs over a lugubrious swain by weeping tears of outraged innocence on the witness chair.

But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and this time the applecart of traditional procedure was completely upset in a surprising and unique manner. Joan did not get the $100,000 from Frankie, but she did succeed in winning what was even dearer to her heart, the got the man himself.

For the distasteful suit was withdrawn and on November 1, Joan Williams, the plaintiff, became Mrs. Frankie Richardson, wife of the defendant, who is a screen, stage, vaudeville and radio entertainer with an amiable personality and the ability to put over a sentimental song which has made his name famous· from New York to Hollywood.

The plot of this unusual tale had its inception in January, 1933. At that time Joan Williams, who was christened Emily Joan Graham, and had changed her name for tlage purposes, had come over from New York to Philadelphia to visit her mother, Mrs. Mary Graham.

Joan had been one of Earl Carroll's girls in his "Vanities." She had also been prominent in the choruses of several other musical revues and had appeared at several night clubs.

While Joan was staying with her mother. she also paid a call on her theatrical agent, who wanted to book her at one of Philadelphia roof cafes.

Joan consented and told him that she had to return to New York for a few days. The gentleman proposed that if she wanted company on the trip she might make the two-hour journey with Frankie Richardson, a good friend of his. Joan said, "Swell" and she and Frankie thus met for the first time.

Now Frankie Richardson is himself a lad who hails from the Quaker city. Born there in 1898. he wanted to go on the stage almost as soon as he could walk and talk.

Frankie had the boy soprano voice and plenty of stage presence at the rather carly age of eight. He made a hit and got an engage­ment with Dumont's Minstrels as the "Wonder Boy Tenor". Later he went with Emmet Welch's Minstrels on the Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City, played with circus shows and graduated to Ihe post of master of ceremonies in vaudeville and moving picture houses,

Hollywood wanted him and Frankie Richardson went out there to appear in the Movietone Follies, one of the first all-singing, all-dancing and all-talking cinema revues. He was in "Sunnyside Up" where he shared the limelight with two other Philadelphia-born fa­vorites. Janet Gaynor and EI Brendel, and In "Let's Go Places" and "Happy Days."

Then he came back east to vaudeville and was taken right back to the hearts of his public when he sang the song hits from the movies with his typical style of syncopating rhythm.

Joan Williams had of course heard of Frankie Richardson. Naturally she was tremendously flattered when, after the two-hour train journey, he asked to see her the next day. Then there followed what Joan described as a whirlwind courtship for three exciting months.

Frankie sent me flowers and candy almost every day," Joan said last April. "We went out together all the time. He introduced me to his friends. He came to see me at my mother's home and mama was very fond of him. My agent seemed very happy at the results of his introduction. Everything looked more than rosy.

"Then on March 1, 1933 Frankie proposed marriage to me. I accepted because I loved him and I believed that he loved me. The date of the wedding was set, it was to take place in the summer. I began to collect a trousseau.

"Then without any warning or any hint from Frankie or any of his friends, on April 16 Frankie told me abruptly but firmly that he could not marry me because he already had a wife. Adele. who was living at his home in Stonehurst near Philadelphia.

"You can imagine how I fell. Surprised and embarrassed are not the words. My agent had never mentioned the obstacle of a wife. My mother could not believe that Frankie was the type who would deceive a girl deliberately and in cold blood."

However, there was a wife, and Joan Williams lost no time in taking her hurt pride and injured feelings to a lawyer. John R. K. Scott, who filed a suit for breach of promIse, asking $100,000 as balm.

In the legal brief, it was stated that the plaintiff anticipations of a blissful married life with the defendant were shattered when said defendant informed her he was already married and his wile was living, so that it would he impossible for him to keep his agreement."

It went on to say that she had suffered great injury to her reputation and social standing; what is more, it informed the court that the plaintiff was willing and ready to marry the defendant, whom she loved.

Judge Lewis issued a capias for the accused, requiring Richardson to enter bail so as to ensure his appearance in court at the proper time. Richardson, who was then ap­pearing at a Philadelphia moving picture house as master of ceremonies, complied and then left to fill an engagement in Baltimore.

Richardson himself refused to be interviewed.

His "fiancee" however. was not so reticent. She was anxious to relieve her troubled heart by spilling her story to whoever would listen.

"Frankie's first song hit was 'What Is the Use to Remember When the Girl You Remember Forgets" were her words. "Well, I sing it all day now except that I substitute boy for girl. Only a few days ago Frankie and I both loved another one of his hits. 'Hurry Up Those Wedding Bells,' but I guess he thinks I'll forget that, too.

"The one I liked best was 'I'm in the Market for You' and I still sing it because I'm still ready to be his bride. But if he really thinks he can just put an end to our beautiful romance by springing a wife on me, he won't have an easy time.

"It's hard for me to believe that she really does exist, for she has never communicated with me. Why doesn't she call me now and deny that her Frankie ever loved me? Why didn't Frankie's friends ever tell me about her?

But a few weeks later rumor had it that Joan Williams had suddenly sent her attorney a sweet-scented note in which she asked him to drop the case. Several town gossips discovered that Frankie and Joanie were "making whoopee" together in one of Ihe town's hot spots.

Then like a bolt from the blue came the announcement that Richardson and Emily Joan Graham, known as Joan Williams, were to be married in Maryland's Gretna Green, Elkton. It seems that Mrs. Richardson No. 1 had not had any great desire to remain hitched to Frankie and had obtained a divorce quietly, a few months alter Joan William, had filed the breach of promise suit.

And Frankie had apparently been seized with a resurgence of love for Joan. She had him "picking petals off of daisies," to use one of his favorite ditties, and when he confronted her at several lawyers' conferences. to use his own words. "I fell in love with her all over again".

Thus a happy ending in the manner of the fairy tales was unexpectedly tacked on to this modern romance of sophisticated stage folk. With witnesses to give them cheer the ecstatic pair drove off to Elkton in an eight-cylinder shiny limousine. There at the stroke of noon on November 1, the knot was tied by the Rev. O. D. Moon, a Baptist minister and the brother of the Rev. Robert William Moon, Elklon's famous "marrying parson," whom ilnness pre­vented from officiating,

Trenton Evening Times - June 5, 1936

Trenton Evening Times - June 12, 1936

Trenton Evening Times - May 1, 1940

Trenton Evening Times - November 5, 1940

Trenton Evening Times - November 22, 1940

Trenton Evening Times
November 22, 1940

Trenton Evening Times - November 29, 1940

Boston Traveler - June 13, 1953

Trenton Evening Times
March 17, 1955

Trenton Evening Times - October 20, 1961

Trenton Evening Times - December 8, 1961

Boston Herald
February 1, 1962

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