This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fanny Brice (1891-1951)

Fania Borach was born October 29, 1891, in New York City. As a little girl, Fannie was much like the character which would become her trademark, Baby Snooks. She was the third child of a successful couple that was in the saloon business. She dropped out of school in 1908 to join a burlesque revue, using the name Fannie Brice. Two years later she began her career with Zigfeld's Follies, which lasted into the 1930s. As a teenager, she married Frank White, a barber. That quickly ended in divorce. After this she started a relationship with the love of her life, Julius "Nicky" Arnstein. Nicky was in Sing Sing Prison when they began their "courtship." Nicky was still married, although the couple never spoke to each other when they lived together. The crime was racketeering (he also did time at Fort Leavenworth). After his release from prison, Fannie and Nicky lived together and would not marry until Nicky's wife finally sued for divorce. They had two children--Frances and William. The marriage was a happy one, but it did not last very long... They divorced in 1927. Two years later, she married Broadway impresario Billy Rose. It wasn't a happy marriage, but they stayed together until 1937. It was at that time Fannie Brice became Fanny Brice.

She moved to Hollywood at that time. Fanny only made three movies after this time but it was in Hollywood that she made a name for herself in radio.

Baby Snooks was created at a party in the early 1920s. Over the years, Fanny improved the act. It was the basic comic/straight man routine. Baby Snooks (Snooks Higgins) was a little seven year old girl. Fanny said the girl was based on herself in her own childhood. The straight man was her father. Originally, "Daddy" Lancelot Higgins was portrayed by Alan Reed. After several changes, Daddy was played by Hanley Stafford for many years. Hanley and Fanny were best (platonic) friends and their chemistry was amazing.

She had so many other talents... Singing with a Yiddish accent ("My Man"), other singing ("Second Hand Rose"), dramatic acting, recitations, etc. But to most people she was Baby Snooks and she played the part on many radio programs, including her own.

Fanny Brice died at her home of a brain hemorrhage on the morning of May 29, 1951, at the age of 59. The Baby Snooks program that aired that week was a memorial service to the life and loves of Fanny Brice.

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