Thursday, May 04, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jack Ward

John A. “Jack” Ward was born on May 2, 1888, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania according to his World War I draft card. 

In the 1900 United States Census, Ward was the sixth of nine children born to James, a wallpaper printer, and Alice. They lived in Philadelphia at 1008 South 24th Street. Ward had three brothers and five sisters: Joseph and William were vocalists; James a watchmaker, and Alice a paper box-maker. 

In the mid-1900s, Ward entered vaudeville. So far, the earliest mention of Ward was in the Woodbury Daily Times (New Jersey), September 12, 1907, in the next to last paragraph (below). He teamed up with Eddie Weber

Baltimore Sun 2/2/1908

Variety 2/20/1909

Ward has not yet been found in the 1910 census. His parents were still in Philadelphia. 

Colorado Springs Gazette 9/11/1910

Variety 9/27/1912

Billboard, August 8, 1914, said “Ward and Weber have dissolved partnership. Eddie Weber will work with Capitola De Wolfe.” Ward was quickly back on his feet when he partnered with Edna Northlane, whose mother was the chaperone. They were listed in Variety, August 28, 1914, for an appearance at the Majestic Theater in Houston, Texas. The San Antonio Light, September 6, 1914, said
... Edna Northlane and Jack Ward in an “Impromptu Duo” present a merry hodge midge of songs, dances and patter, and the late song hit, “Within the Law.” Miss Northlane make a decided impression upon her audiences. A clever, bright and exceedingly well dressed couple, they savor of society entertainers of the de luxe order.
San Antonio Light 9/6/1914

Grand Forks Daily Herald 3/28/1915

At some point, Ward married Northlane who got her start in show business around 1910. Northlane would partner with Adele Ferguson. 

Oregon Daily Journal 10/30/1912

On June 5, 1917, Ward signed his World War I draft card. His address was 158 North Dewey in Philadelphia. His occupation was vaudeville artist. Ward was described as medium height and build, with blue eyes and brown hair. 

A 1919 Army Transport Service Passenger List said Ward was a corporal in Company B of the 314th Infantry. He sailed from France. Ward said his home was the Hotel Princeton at 116 West 4th Street in Manhattan, New York City. 

The New York Clipper, December 3, 1919, said
The vaudeville team of Northlane and Ward, having returned from entertaining soldiers overseas, will split temporarily. Jack Ward will do a single and Edna Northlane, in private life Mrs. Jack Ward, will not work this season. Ward will offer singing, dancing and character bits in his act.
The 1920 census counted Ward and his wife in Manhattan at 132 West 45th Street. The building was filled with various performers and musicians. 

Variety 1/3/1924

Omaha Sunday Bee 6/8/1924

According to the 1925 New York state census, Ward, his wife and five-year-old daughter Edna were Brooklyn residents at 5101 20th Avenue. He and his wife’s occupations were actor and actress. 

Ward’s The High-Kicking Kellys debuted in the second half of October 1924. (Old Fulton New York Post Cards has an incomplete run of Vaudeville News. Missing are all of 1924 and the first six months of 1926.) Its first anniversary was reported in Vaudeville News, October 23, 1925. 
The “High Kicking Kellys,” whose funny antics in Jack Ward’s cartoon strip on this page each week have brought merriment to countless thousands, are now a year old. For 52 consecutive weeks they have delighted Vaudeville News readers, and for that reason a few “inside” facts about them may be of interest.

Of course the Kellys do not exist in reality. It is just a cartoon, created for laughing purposes only and the creator and cartoonist is Jack Ward of the team of Northlane and Ward, now playing the Keith-Albee Circuit. Ward has worked with Edna Northlane (known as the Mary Pickford of Vaudeville) for the past twelve years. For eight years he worked with Eddie Weber (now Weber & Ridnor) in an act known as Ward & Weber.

Old friends of Ward, knowing that he was raised in the show business, are curious to know how he became a cartoonist. The creator of the High Kicking Kellys acquired his cartooning education right off the make-up shelf. In 1920 he took up a correspondence school course in cartooning which required three years to complete. Another year was devoted to the study of commercial art. He never studied anywhere excepting in a dressing room between shows. Thanks to present-day conditions most dressing rooms arc well lighted, well ventilated and are ideal for studying. Ward was not alone in his studying as evidenced by the accompanying photo of Baby Edna Lorraine Ward, who is 4 1/2 years of age and weighs 38 pounds. She has been “brought up” on the stage and is living proof of the fact that vaudeville artists are laboring under healthful conditions.

With the assistance and advice of the editor of The Vaudeville News and Mr. McClure, manager of Associated Newspapers, as well as Ed Ripley, sport cartoonist of the New York Telegram, Ward’s work in The Vaudeville News has been closely watched and coached and is now considered equal in originality, humor and technique to any comedy strip before the public today.

The Kellys are a year old and if you have followed them you will admit they have gone through some terrible experiences for their age. 

But “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

The series ended January 8, 1927. 

Vaudeville News 7/3/1925

Vaudeville News 7/10/1925

Vaudeville News 7/17/1925

Vaudeville News 1/1/1927

Vaudeville News 1/8/1927

For the Paramount Newspaper Feature Service, Ward wrote Flaming Youth which ran from July 22 to September 9, 1927, according to American Newspaper Comics (2012). (Paramount Newspaper Feature Service also distributed Sam Iger’s The Gang, Larry Silverman’s In Jungle Land, Geoff HayesAfter the Honeymoon, Gus Standard’s Ham and Beans, Frank Little’s Spike and Sam, and Louise Hirsch’s Charlie Chirps and Tessie Tish.) The strip was signed Jack Ward but drawn by another artist. The signature and style are completely different than The High-Kicking Kellys. The double crossbar on the J makes the letter look like an F. 

My guess is Frank Little was the artist because when the series was reprinted he got the byline. 

The Wave (Rockaway Beach, NY) 12/5/1929

The Wave (Rockaway Beach, NY) 12/26/1929

The Wave (Rockaway Beach, NY) 1/9/1930

The Wave (Rockaway Beach, NY) 1/16/1930

Ward’s entry into animation was reported in Film Daily, February 23, 1930. 
Jack Ward, comedian and dancer for the past 20 years on the Keith and Loew vaudeville circuits with Northlane & Ward and later with Ward & Weber, has been signed for an indefinite engagement with the Aesop Fable dept. of the Van Beuren Corp. 
Billboard, October 17, 1931, said “Edna Northlane and Jack Ward are returning to vaude in a new act after being away for a couple of years, in which Ward worked for animated cartoon films.”

The 1930 recorded Ward at the same Brooklyn address. The actor had a second daughter, two-year-old Maryolive. 

At some point, Ward joined Fleischer Studios. He was mentioned, in the Christmas dinner article, of the February 1936 in-house publication, Animated News

In the 1940 census, Ward, his wife and youngest daughter lived in Miami, Florida at 2144 SW 3rd Avenue. His occupation was writer. Ward’s highest level of education was the second year of high school. 

Ward’s dancing was mentioned in two books. Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History, 2nd Edition (2004) said 
... If dance steps or a special funny walk were needed for a cartoon character to perform, the veteran former star vaudevillian dancer, Jack Ward, was called in. Jack would go through the routine, freezing occasionally for the animator to make quick pencil sketches to be later transposed into the cartoon character’s action. …
Science Fiction America: Essays on SF Cinema (2015) said 
... The other outstanding attribute of this musical cartoon is the dancing. Both Gordon Sheehan and animator Dave Tendlar remembered the talents of writer, cartoonist, and former vaudeville dancer Jack Ward. Tendlar said, “He could draw. He drew all the [dance] steps for us. He drew everything out. The positions of the feet. He was a professional dancer. He drew out all the steps in very great detail, and we could follow the feet movements that he drew. He was not an animator. He worked in the Story Department. In his early days, he and his wife were vaudeville actors; they danced.”
The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer: American Animation Pioneer (2017) published a photograph of Ward and others napping. 

Fleischer Studios folded in 1942 and was renamed Famous Studios by Paramount Pictures.

The 1950 census said Ward, his wife and two daughters lived in Manhattan at 300 49th Street. His occupation was “Take Care of Apartment” without pay. 

Ward passed away January 11, 1956. An obituary appeared in Variety, February 8, 1956. 
Jack Ward, onetime musical comedy and vaude performer, died Jan. 11 in New York. Starting his theatrical career at the age of 14, he later was dance director for the late George M. Cohan in a number of shows presented by the production team of Cohan & Harris.

But although Ward frequently trouped in musicals for the Shuberts and other producers he was better known for his work in vaude. In the latter medium he teamed with his wife, Edna, in a turn known as Northlane & Ward and also was a member of the act of Ward & Weber.

After serving in World War I, Ward rejoined Miss Northlane to appear in the George M. Cohan Over There Theatre League and on the major circuits of yesteryear. A cartoonist as well as a dancer, he drew a strip called the “High Kicking Kellys” in the Vaudeville News and was long associated in various capacities with the Van Beuren Studio and Max Fleischer Studio.

Surviving besides his wife are two daughters and five sisters. One daughter, Edna L., is a member of Lane & Ward.
Ward’s wife passed away February 2, 1981. They were laid to rest in Kensico Cemetery


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