Eva Puck (November 25, 1892 – October 25, 1979) was an American entertainer, a vaudeville headliner who later found success performing in Broadway musical comedies and film.
November 27, 1892|
New York City, New York, U.S.
October 24, 1979 (aged 86)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Stage, film actress|
She was born in New York City, the middle of three children raised by Abraham and Lena (née Salmon) Puck. There is some question about the family surname being Puck or Salmon, both were used in early press articles. Little is known of her mother who came to America from Poland in 1874 or her English father who immigrated in 1882. They married in 1887 and by 1899 had Eva and her older brother Harry performing in a vaudeville song and dance act known as the Two Little Pucks.
On May 10, 1903, police raided the Trocadero Music Hall in Manhattan’s Fort George district where the Puck children were performing as headliners and arrested their parents and the theater manager, Freeman Bernstein. They were charged with a violation of Section 289 of the Penal Code in unlawfully consenting to the employment, and in the employment, of minors in a theatrical exhibition. The investigators were concerned over the hours that Eva and her brother were keeping and also found the Trocadero an unsuitable environment for children with patrons smoking and consuming alcohol. The three were later brought to trial in the Court of Special Sessions, and found guilty. The judge, in passing sentence said, in part:
"We cannot resist the conviction that these parents have been living largely upon the earnings of these children, which amount from $125 to $150 per month. Now, this sort of business cannot be continued or permitted, and if these defendants come before this Court again the punishment will be more drastic.”
Her father was fined $100, or thirty days jail time; and her mother $25, or fifteen days in the City Prison. Bernstein was fined $50.
For the next few years, the Two Little Pucks continued to perform at venues outside New York and later, as they entered their teens, toured as Eva and Harry Puck before disbanding sometime around 1918. Harry went on to be a successful choreographer, composer, songwriter and music publisher. He was a business partner of lyricist Bert Kalmar and wrote songs with him until Kalmar started his more famous songwriting partnership with composer Harry Ruby. Eva remained in vaudeville, soon teaming up with her future husband, song and dance comedian Sammy White (1894-1960).
Their younger brother, Laurence "Larry" Puck, became a radio and television producer and general manager of Unicorn Productions Inc., a subsidiary of CBS. He later married Mable Withee, a singer and dancer active on Broadway over the 1920s.
Eva Puck became a member of the vaudeville comedy act Clayton and White that, after Lew Clayton’s departure around 1920, became known as Puck and White. One of their popular vaudeville sketches ("Opera vs. Jazz") portrayed White as a scholarly music teacher and Eva as his inept student. The couple married in 1922. and together appeared in Broadway shows such as the Greenwich Village Follies (1923), Rodgers and Hart musical The Girl Friend (1926), and Jerome Kern's Show Boat (1927). Puck also appeared as Helen Cheston in the original Broadway run of the musical Irene from November 1919 to June 1921.
The two played in the original 1927 Broadway stage version of Show Boat. In the musical, White played the role of comic dancer Frank Schultz, and Puck played the role of Ellie May Chipley, who eventually marries Frank. In 1932, the two reprised their roles in the first Broadway revival of the show. However, by the time Universal Pictures released the 1936 film version, the two had divorced, so the role of Ellie went to Queenie Smith, with White repeating his performance as Frank in the film.
Puck and White appeared in a short film made by Lee De Forest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process, which premiered at the Rivoli Theater in New York City on 15 April 1923. The film shows Puck and White performing their comic routine entitled "Opera vs. Jazz", and is preserved in the Maurice Zouary film collection at the Library of Congress.
In the mid-1930s, Eva Puck married Robert Groves (or Graves), a California merchant, and retired from the stage.
Eva Puck died in 1979, aged 86, at the Granada Hills Community Hospital in Los Angeles. She had a daughter, Lauretta (sometimes spelled Laurette) Puck, born in New York in 1912. Nothing is known about her father except that he was born in Hungary. She appeared in the short Leon Errol film Should Wives Work? (1937) and had previously toured with the Arthur Ashley Players.
Lauretta later married William R. Golden, a Hollywood executive, and became a nationally known exhibitor and breeder of Irish Setters. A resident of Pacific Palisades, she died after an extended illness on July 17, 1972.
- Associated Press (October 28, 1979). "Eva Puck, 86, Star in Vaudeville And in Broadway Musicals, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-11.
Eva Puck, a former vaudeville headliner, died Thursday at Granada Hills Community Hospital. She was 86 years old. ...
- Passenger Manifest SS Haiti April 16, 1934
- California Death Index
- 1900 US Census Records
- Chicago Tribune - Jan 8, 1899
- The Two Little Pucks, New York Public Library Digital Gallery
- Eva JScholarship
- Annual report By New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children 1901-1904
- The Papers of Will Rogers: From Vaudeville to Broadway
- The New York Times January 29, 1964
- The New York Times November 5, 1952
- The New York Times November 4, 1952
- The Fitchburg Sentinel May 20, 1932
- Internet Broadway Database entry
- The New York Times October 28, 1979 pg. 44
- Eva Puck and Sammy White (1923) at SilentEra with photo of Puck and White performing their sketch "Opera vs. Jazz"
- Syracuse Herald January 05, 1936 | Page 18
- California Death Index (Loretta P. Golden
- Fitchburg Sentinel 22 Jul 1930
- 1920 US Census Records
- Laurette Puck IMDb.com
- Lauretta Puck NYPL Digital Gallery
- Golden, Lauretta Puck - The Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1972 (obituary page)