The tale has been translated into many foreign languages and it's been the subject of plays and motion pictures. It is also the subject of an opera by Jules Massenet (1842-1912). The opera is seldom performed today, but its American premiere at the Manhattan Opera House on Friday, November 27, 1908, was very successful. Mary Garden played the part of the boy juggler, whose name by this time had been changed to Jean. Critics of the day called Mary Garden's interpretation of the juggler "superlative." About the music, critics declared that even though there were few moments of inspired writing in the score, Massenet's music was at all times, melodious and charming; and that it was a refreshing, delightful, heartwarming work. Old photographs of Mary Garden as she appeared in the opera show her holding three balls in one hand and a hat in the other. Oscar Hammerstein was responsible for the production of this and other operas, but he had other theatrical interests as well. His Victoria Theater and Music Hall was one of the most colorful vaudeville houses of that period. It was managed by Oscar's son Willie, and had consistently shown a profit. Curiously, it was this profit that had made the "juggler's opera" possible. The Victoria played real jugglers on its programs; in fact, one such program, dated Monday, February 10 (possibly 1908), listed W. C. Fields as "Unique Comedy Juggler - First time at this theater."
While Mary Garden was magnificently pretending to be a juggler in song and mime, real jugglers were at work. Bedini and Arthur were playing the best of vaudeville and looking for an assistant. They eventually found one in the person of a young comic who later became famous as Eddie Cantor. Ironically, Jean Bedini and Roy Arthur are best remembered for their assistant, not for their fine juggling act. Kara, who was now 41 years old, was at the Wintergarten in Berlin (December, l908).
The first motion pictures, which were then known as nickelodeons, could now be found all over the country. By 1909, Mary Pickford and Owen Moore were appearing in In a Lonely Villa. The Great Train Robbery had been made in 1903, and as early as April 20, 1896, Koster and Bial's Music Hall had presented Edison's Vitascope pictures, which were presented as "acts," together with variety acts. Cinquevalli was one of the most famous jugglers to work this well-known theatrical landmark in New York City.
An early-century juggler was William Everhart, who was famous as a hoop-roller and probably the best in that field. When playing in England, Everhart was commanded to appear before Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at Buckingham Palace. Dr. Henry R. Evans, in the Linking Ring magazine some years ago, states that he had seen Everhart perform, and describes the act in these words:
Everhart would send seven hoops to the other side of the stage, one by one, and they would return to him, roll around him, pass between his legs, crawl down his back and then down his extended arms to be caught and sent out again, twisting, spinning, and bounding. He used, if I remember correctly, the wooden rings of bicycle wheels instead of the conventional hoops, once propelled along the streets of our cities and towns by little children in the seventies and eighties.
Pierre Amoros was a member of the famous Amoros family and, evidently, he juggled nine balls, a trick which prompted Rastelli (in later years) to juggle ten in order to surpass him. Lodo Leo Rapoli was a great manipulator of small balls; he performed such complex tricks with six and seven balls, that most jugglers found them impossible to do with four and five. I have little information on Selma Braatz. But judging from her publicity photos and reputation, we can safely assume that she was an outstanding juggler. Dennis Soldati informs me that several articles on Selma Braatz have appeared in back issues of the IJA's Newsletter. Regarding Kara and Salerno, it seems that Kara was the better technician, Salerno the better showman. This judgment is based on conversations I've had with Arthur Ward, who has seen both men perform.
Apparently neither man made much use of the heavy-prop style, which was losing popularity. There is some evidence, however, that small pieces of furniture were used in their acts, which seems to indicate that the "heavy" inclination had not died out completely. Essentially, though, these men were object jugglers who displayed a great deal of polish, and were the founders of a style to be known as "gentlemen jugglers." Note that the props used by these men were highly untheatrical, since for the most part they consisted of objects found in the kitchens and parlors of every home. Hence - the "salon" juggler.
The beauty of the parlor trick was that the viewer felt as if he could go home to his own living room and "play it on his piano." By using his own table, lamp, and candlesticks, perhaps he could perform with the same dexterity he had witnessed on the vaudeville stage the night before.
The billiard cue with ball balanced on its tip was often seen during this period, but the balance was usually faked. Kara, however, used this prop with imagination and somewhat more realistically. The cue was juggled by Kara with two other objects found in the pool room and a bottle as well. The coin tossed from toe to eye and caught as a monocle, and the pulling of the tablecloth from under the dishes were typical "gentlemen" tricks of the period. Kara did both. Another trick of Kara's was the frame (or rack) which he balanced on his forehead. The top of the frame had an opening into which balls could be thrown. The inside of the frame, which was visible, had a series of conductors or slots allowing the balls to roll down in delayed zigzag fashion so that many balls could be "juggled'' at the same time. Though unusual, this trick can hardly be called a fake, since it was extremely clever and made considerable demands on the skill of the performer.
And reminiscent of Cinquevalli's turnip trick, Kara juggled three objects - an orange, knife, and fork. The trick ended when Kara sliced the orange in two in mid-air using the knife, and then continued to juggle the four objects without a stop. Balancing a hat rack on his chin, Kara juggled three hats, and by a series of tosses, each hat went to a different prong on the rack. A head-to-head balance with his assistant yielded similar results with three hats thrown - one to each foot and the last one to the assistant's posterior.
Another beautiful routine of Salerno's: - His assistant brings him a letter. Salerno opens the envelope by throwing it up in the air and cutting its end with scissors. After answering the letter, he throws it up and catches in the envelope. The penholder is thrown around his back to be caught in back of his ear, and as his assistant walks away to deliver the letter, Salerno throws the pen at the assistant's backside, where it sticks. But probably the most memorable routine of Salerno's was his juggling of three torches. They were shaped like lamps and changed colors in the middle of the routine, turning red, yellow, and green. Continuous back-crosses on a dark stage ended the routine. For his closing trick, Salerno stood on the table and clipped a wine bottle between his feet. In his mouth he held a wine glass. Then he did a handstand on the table, and with the bottle over his head between his feet, he shook out the cork and poured wine into the mouth-held glass. The bottle was placed on his head with his feet and he resumed his upright position.
The information on the acts of Kara and Salerno are paraphrased from the writings of Horace Morton Lorette, and from my conversations with Max Baresh and Arthur Ward. Mr. Lorette's information is used here with permission from the International Jugglers' Association.
In examining other early-century artists, we cannot overlook Harrigan. Many of the tramp jugglers of that period, including W. C. Fields, are said to have been inspired by Harrigan's outstanding talents. An English publication, The Variety Theatre of August 18, 1905, made the following comments:
Harrigan, the tramp juggler, now appearing at the Palace, Shaftesbury Avenue, claims to be the originator of that character on the stage, and the first to create mirth with a lot of cigar boxes.
He was also the first American tramp juggler to appear before an English audience. This was in 1895, when he appeared at the Alhambra and Palace, making a terrific hit at both houses. He returned to the Palace in 1899, repeating the success made on his premier visit. Harrigan, besides being at the top of the tramp jugglers, is considered to be one of the best monologists and parody singers in America. His jokes and parodies are original, a fact which makes a great demand for his services both off and on stage.
In the years that followed, Saturday night at the movies wasn't the name of a television program. It was a living, exciting, unforgettable experience. Pearl White, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks brought cliff-hanging suspense and witty pantomime to an adoring public. But that was only part of the entertainment package. There was more to come - vaudeville. For the same price of admission the darkened movie theater suddenly came alive with lights, musicians, and performers who'd walk onstage in an aura of unbelievable glamour, to dance, to sing, to juggle. There were acts to please all tastes, and those who understood juggling looked forward to next week's program, always with specific names in mind. It was Jean Bedini this week, the Mowatts next week, perhaps Gus Kiralfo soon, and - who knows - maybe even Kara or Cinquevalli. Juggler Hank Adams played Dansville, N. Y. the week of June 30 to July 9, 1913, but he was one of many. In the big cities, in the small towns, there was always a vaudeville show, and quite often a juggler. Fortunately, silent movies and vaudeville were compatible. There was room for all.
The "gentleman juggler" was now firmly established and performers were elegantly dressed in formal evening attire. Tricks with hat, cane and gloves were popular. A cane would balance on the performer's forehead and a top hat was thrown to be caught on the top end of the cane. Now the cane was allowed to slide down the back so that the hat would fall on the head; and the cane, by some magic that only jugglers understand, became wedged between the hat and the performer's head, hanging out like a pigtail. To add humor to the skill, the performer would say he had learned the trick from the great Chinese juggler On Too Long. (NOTE - This routine and patter was actually done by the Australian Davey, but much later in the century.)