Coming of age at a time when the average height of an America woman was two inches shorter than in the 21st century, Charlotte Greenwood's gangly 5-foot, 10-inch frame loomed over the Broadway and theatrical stage for the first half of the 20th century. She first attracted notice in 'The Passing Show of 1912' where her antics lit up the vast stage of the Hippodrome. Hilariously loose-limbed and notoriously flexible (she was famed for high-kicking her heels above her head), Greenwood vied with chunky Marie Dressler for preeminence as a female physical comic. She was a vaudeville headliner, performing mayhem in skits. She excelled in speaking roles, playing "Letty" in a popular series of stage comedies built around that character. Her loosely-goosey eccentric dancing electrified revues, such as Irving Berlin's Music Box of 1922.
Greenwood left Broadway in 1928, using her vocal skills to secure work, usually as a supporting actress, in sound films. Her singing was piquant, perhaps because of the comic timing of her phrasing. Richard Rogers wrote the role of Aunt Eller in "Oklahoma" for her and Cole Porter starred her in his 1950 "Out of This World." She was a fixture in many of the mediocre 1940s movie musicals produced by 20th Century Fox. Fortunately the range of her talent can be viewed in the film version of "Oklahoma." David S. Shields/ALS