Friday, September 8, 2023

In Search of Lee Royce, Unknown Superman Actor


Oy vey!  Tracking down details on this guy has been a major chore, and I have to admit, I’m exhausted.  But it’s also a labor of love.  Here’s hoping you’ll find something interesting or worthwhile about the fellow who played the superhero who started it all.  So let’s jump in, shall we?

The list of actors who have played Superman is a long one and includes the likes of Christopher Reeve, George Reeves, Kirk Alyn, Henry Cavill, Tim Daly, and Bud Collyer.  One name you’ve probably never seen on such a list is Lee Royce, who is said to have replaced Bud Collyer in the Fleischer/Famous Studios series of Superman cartoons.  It’s only recently that Royce has been recognized as a Superman actor, since he received no credit in the cartoons and had little history as a voice actor.

This is a follow-up to my previous post, Who Played Clark Kent in the Fleischer/Famous Studios Superman Cartoons?, in which I laid out the evidence in support of the notion that Royce replaced Bud Collyer as the voice of Clark Kent/Superman.  Now I’m going to dig deeper into the actor, his background, and his career.

Lee Royce was never what you'd call a star, and his work was mostly limited to vaudeville/burlesque and nightclubs.  As noted, he did some voice acting for Fleischer/Famous Studios and appeared in one live action short comedy film, which unfortunately is lost.  Though primarily a singer, he doesn’t appear to have ever made a record, so we’ll probably never know exactly what his crooning sounded like.  According to reviews, he had a powerful baritone voice (though his repertoire was a bit stodgy, with songs like Old Man River and Over There), and he was a solid entertainer.  He also made a good master of ceremonies, handled comedic straight man duties well, and was tall and handsome and popular with the ladies.  But famous he wasn’t, and he’s languished in obscurity for many years.  With this post, I hope to remedy that.

Personal Details

To start with, we have three items to introduce into evidence: (1) Royce’s World War II draft registration card, (2) his obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer dated December 31, 1992, and (3) information from the website Find a Grave.  Right off the bat, we see something startling: rather than “Lee Royce,” his real name was Martin Levy.

Levy sounds like a Jewish name, and sure enough, Royce/Levy is buried in Har Nebo, a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.  This is significant, because to date and to my knowledge, Royce is the only Superman actor who, like the character’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, was Jewish.  (Update 10/2/2023: Brian McKernan, who runs a fine Facebook group called Bob Holiday: Broadway's Superman, informs me that Holiday was Jewish.  That means Royce isn't the only Jewish actor to play the character, but he was certainly the first.  And of course, David Corenswet, who is Jewish, has been cast as Superman in an upcoming movie.)

We see from the draft registration card, dated January 6, 1941, that Royce was born May 12, 1907 in Philadelphia, that his then-current address was the Mark Twain Hotel in Hollywood, that his mother Elizabeth Levy lived at 2030 North 32nd Street in Philadelphia, that his occupation was “Self-Employed (Theatrical),” and that he was six feet tall, weighed 195 pounds, and had a scar on his upper lip.

We learn from Levy/Royce’s obituary that he died on December 27, 1992.  He also graduated from Girard College in Philadelphia, performed on Broadway and at the Catskills, Cuba, and London.  During World War II, he went to England and performed in USO shows (which suggests he didn’t serve in the military).  The obituary also says he retired to his home town of Philadelphia around the early 1970s and was survived by his daughter Elizabeth (presumably named after his mother) and a brother.  He also had a long-time partner, Ruth “Ritsie” Zacharia.

Ruth Zacharia

A notice in the Philadelphia Daily News, dated May 19, 1993, lists Ruth Zacharia as the executrix of Levy’s estate.

According to the Social Security Death Index, Zacharia was born December 15, 1921 and died April 3, 2002.

She was  the widow of Victor Zacharia, who died in 1981, and her maiden name was Weinberger.

An article about a neighborhood dispute in the July 12, 1979 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer includes a photo of Ruth Zacharia.

Family and Education

If we look at the 1910 U.S. federal census, we see three-year-old Martin with his father Jacob, mother Lizzie (Elizabeth), and four-year-old brother Bennie (Benjamin).  At the time, Jacob was a tailor in a factory.  He and Lizzie were Russian immigrants, and both spoke Yiddish (as did all of the heads of household on their street).

The 1920 census shows us Martin, age 12, as a student at Girard College in Philadelphia (though he’s listed as an “inmate!”).  We learned previously from Martin’s obituary that he had attended this school.

Girard College was a boarding school for boys, each of whom received a full scholarship.  The only requirements were that the boy be fatherless, white, and show academic promise.  Though religion wasn’t important (Jews were welcome), the school had a hard and fast rule against admitting anyone who wasn’t white – a requirement that got them into trouble after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.  The fatherless requirement suggests that Martin’s father died sometime between 1910 and 1920.

And by jove, by jing, by Strauss is the thing, we find that Jacob Levy died in November 1915 and is buried in the same cemetery - Har Nebo - as Martin.

Ruth Schore

Prior to his relationship with Ruth Zacharia, Martin Levy was married to Ruth Schore, the mother of his daughter Elizabeth.  In the New York City index of marriage licenses, we find that Levy and Schore were married in 1955 in Queens.

Ruth Levy’s obituary tells us that she was Martin Levy’s wife, Elizabeth Levy’s mother, had a sister Mabel Schore, and died March 18, 1982.  She was buried at Har Nebo Cemetery.

Thanks to the generosity of Eileen S. Sklaroff, President Emerita of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, we have a photo of Ruth Levy’s gravestone at Har Nebo, which shows not only Ruth’s death date but her birth date as well: March 1, 1912.

The 1915 New York state census lists the Schore family living in the Bronx: Kolman, age 35, an insurance agent; his wife Ida, age 35; and daughters Mabel, age 6, and Ruth, age 3.  Kolman and Ida were born in Russia, while Mabel and Ruth were born in the U.S.  (“Kolman” was probably more correctly spelled “Kalman,” as we’ll see later.)

The 1920 U.S. federal census shows that same family, living at 1415 Fulton Avenue in the Bronx.  Kolman is listed as “Max,” age 40, whose occupation is “real estate;” Ida is also age 40; while Mabel and Ruth are 10 and 7, respectively.

In the 1925 New York state census, the Schore family is still living at 1415 Fulton Avenue.  Kolman, age 44, is a “real estate broker;” while Ida, Mabel, and Ruth are age 44, 16, and 13, respectively.

In 1930, the Schores are now living at 490 St. Paul’s Place in the Bronx.  Kolman (spelled “Kulman”), age 50, is a life insurance agent; Ida, Mabel, and Ruth are 50, 21, and 18, respectively.  The latter two work in a hat factory.  Ruth is a bookkeeper.

According to Find a Grave, Kalman Max Schore died January 24, 1931 and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Saddle Brook, New Jersey.

In the 1940 U.S. federal census, Mabel, Ruth, and Ida are living at 1605 Walton Avenue in the Bronx.  Ruth is still a bookkeeper.

1950 finds the three women still living at 1605 Walton Avenue.  Mabel, age 36, is a trimmer in a millinery factory, while Ruth, age 34, is an office manager in a ladies sportswear factory.  We learn that Ida was born in Lithuania, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union.

Ida Schore’s naturalization application provides a lot of additional information.  We learn that her name was originally Chaja Cooper, that she was born October 25, 1880 in Shavel, Lithuania (which at the time of her birth was part of Russia), and that she arrived in New York on September 15, 1895.  Her husband Kalman Schore was born July 15, 1880 in Kyiv, Ukraine (which at the time of his birth was part of Russia), arrived in New York on July 17, 1905, and died on January 24, 1931 in Los Angeles.   Ida and Kalman were married on February 25, 1908 in New York.  They had two daughters, Mabel, born March 16, 1909 and Sylvia, born March 2, 1912, both in New York City.  Sylvia is almost certainly the same person as Ruth, even though their birth dates differ by a day.

The index of births in the Bronx lists Sylvia Schore and gives her birth date as March 4, 1912, which slightly differs from the dates on Ruth’s gravestone and on Ida Schore’s naturalization application.

According to his obituary, after graduating from Girard College, Lee Royce launched straight into his career as an entertainer.  Let’s take a look at that career.

Quick Note on What’s Included

In general (with a few exceptions), I’ve tried to stick to appearances that I can verify, through news articles, reviews, or advertisements.  Royce undoubtedly made many other appearances that are unverifiable and not listed here.  In those days, theater and nightclub engagements tended to last a week.  Dates listed are for opening day/night.

Lee Royce on Broadway

According to an item in the February 11, 1942 issue of the Miami News, Royce appeared in nine Broadway musicals.  The item then lists the shows.

If this claim is accurate, he was uncredited, because his name doesn’t appear anywhere in the Internet Broadway Database.  Listed below are eight of the nine shows mentioned and the dates they ran.  (The ninth, “White Horse Inn,” ran a couple of years later and is listed further down below.)  Royce likely wasn’t with these shows for their entire runs, but we don’t know exactly what dates he was.


1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1940 – Earl Carroll’s Vanities

11/30/1926 – 10/1927 – Casino Theatre, NYC – The Desert Song

10/10/1927 – 11/1927 – Century Theatre, NYC – The Desert Song

11/02/1927 – 01/07/1928 – Imperial Theatre, NYC – The Desert Song

04/25/1927 – 02/25/1928 – Belasco Theatre, NYC – Hit the Deck

09/19/1928 – 12/14/1929 – Imperial Theatre, NYC – The New Moon

11/26/1929 – 08/09/1930 – Imperial Theatre, NYC – Sons O’ Guns

01/29/1931 – 03/1931 – Majestic Theatre, NYC – The Student Prince

12/26/1931 – 01/14/1933 – Music Box Theatre, NYC, 46th Street Theatre, NYC - Of Thee I Sing

05/15/1933 – 06/10/1933 – Imperial Theatre, NYC – Of Thee I Sing

10/21/1933 – 01/06/1934 – Imperial Theatre, NYC – Let ‘Em Eat Cake



September 16, 1934 – New Empire Theatre, Newark, NJ – “Cocktails of 1934”

The first verifiable trace of Royce I’ve found is at the age of 27 with the Supreme Burlesque Circuit, a chain of theaters that featured vaudeville/burlesque entertainment.  There were comedians, singers, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, and the biggest draw of all, attractive young women in scanty outfits.  The company would travel around to the various theaters in the chain, or “circuit,” presenting the same show at each theater until the material had worn out and it was time for a new show.

A 1935 article lists the following theaters as belonging to the Supreme Circuit:

Billy Minksy’s Republic Theater, New York, NY

Park Theater, Boston, MA

Capitol Theater, Albany, NY

New Empire, Newark, NJ

Shubert Theater, Philadelphia, PA

Palace Theater, Baltimore, MD

Million Dollar Pier, Miami Beach, FL

This September 1934 article lists Lee Royce as one of the entertainers at the New Empire Theatre in Newark, New Jersey and describes the Supreme Circuit as “newly formed.”

September 24, 1934 - Shubert Theatre, Philadelphia, PA – “Cocktails of 1934”

This was the Schubert Theatre’s first show of the season and the first-ever produced there by the Supreme Circuit.  “Cocktails of 1934” consisted of two acts and thirty-one scenes.  Royce sang “Moon Song.”

December 17, 1934 – Capitol Theater, Albany, NY – “Fads and Fashions”

December 24, 1934 – Shubert Theatre, Philadelphia, PA – “Fads and Fashions”

December 31, 1934 – Variety Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA – “Fads and Fashions”

January 6, 1935 – Palace Burlesque, Baltimore, MD – “Fads and Fashions”


Lee Royce and Edna Mae appear to have had the same publicist, as two notices in The Billboard in January 1935 include both of their names.  There’s also a suggestion that they’re a team.  Both are mentioned as being with the Supreme Circuit.

February 5, 1935 – Billy Minksy’s Republic Theater, New York, NY – “Sweet and Pretty”

February 10, 1935 – Billy Minksy’s Brooklyn Burlesque, Brooklyn, NY – “Let’s Go”

February 17, 1935 - Palace Burlesque, Baltimore, MD – “Harlem Scandals”

March 17, 1935 - Billy Minksy’s Brooklyn Burlesque, Brooklyn, NY – “Dazzling Dames”

April 18, 1936 – NBC Blue Network, New York, NY – Radio Program

The 15-minute broadcast featured singing by Royce and contralto Lorraine Barnett.

April 24, 1936 – WMCA Radio, New York, NY - “Spotlight Varieties” Radio Program

This 25-minute show was hosted by Happy Lewis on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Royce was featured on Mondays and Fridays.

October 1, 1936 – Center Theatre, New York, NY – “White Horse Inn”

“White Horse Inn” was a major production starring William Gaxton and Kitty Carlisle.  The play was first presented in Berlin in 1930 with a different cast and had proven quite successful in Europe, especially London.  The New York staging ran until April 10, 1937.  Lee Royce sang in the chorus and received no billing.

According to the New York Daily News, during “White Horse Inn’s” run Royce was given a screen test by Warner Bros. (which apparently didn’t result in a contract).  The claim that he attended the University of Pennsylvania conflicts with his obituary, which says he graduated from Girard College and then launched into his show biz career.

August 31, 1937 - Warinanco Park, Roselle, NJ – American Legion Demonstration

At this demonstration, sponsored by the American Legion, 30,000 people listened to an address about “Americanism Versus Communism.”  The program also included a slate of entertainers, including Lee Royce, described in the below article as a “vocalist over WJZ,” a New York radio station.

December 15, 1937 – State Theatre, Hartford, CT – “All Headliner Stage Show” with Joe Besser

On this date, Royce first joined comedian Joe Besser as the latter’s straight man, and the pair wowed audiences for years.   The Meridien Daily Journal called the act, “the liveliest skit in years,” and Royce was singled out by the Hartford Courant for his singing of “Old Man River” and “The World Is Mine.”  Besser is best known as one of the Three Stooges in the late 1950s but had a successful career for decades before that.

January 27, 1938 – New York, NY – “Cuckoorancho” film short with Joe Besser

Filmed from January 27 to February 1, 1938, this Columbia short starred Besser and Royce, along with Charles Master and Lolita Cordoba.  It was released March 20, 1938 and is believed to be a lost film.

February 5, 1938 – Colonial Theater, Dayton, OH – “St. Mortiz Ice Carnival” with Joe Besser

April 11, 1938 – Majestic Theater, Paterson, NJ – “Red Hot Jamboree” with Joe Besser

Besser, according to the The Morning Call, is “ably assisted by Lee Royce, who sings several songs in a pleasing baritone.”

May 13, 1938 – Fox Tower, Kansas City, MO – “Oh, You’re Crazy” with Joe Besser

The Kansas City Star explains, “Joe Besser and Lee Royce have an act called, ‘Oh, You’re Crazy.’  The turn opens in a dignified manner and then veers to slapstick, the medium in which it continues until its end.”

Besser and Royce’s act was garnering such good reviews that they started entertaining offers from overseas.

June 4, 1938 – Arrival in Plymouth, England with Joe Besser

Besser and Royce, and Besser’s wife Erna (Ernie) set sail from New York on May 27, 1938, arriving in Plymouth, England eight days later, before heading on to London.

June 6, 1938 – London Palladium, London, England with Joe Besser

This was one of the high points in the careers of both Besser and Royce.  “The Palladium attracted record crowds during our two weeks there,” beamed Besser.  “In fact, so many people were turned away that the theater owner held us over for three more weeks!”  It was Besser’s first appearance in a foreign country and may have been Royce’s, as well.  In any case, Royce would return to England many times in his career, and it became a second home.

The author of an Evening Standard review not only panned Besser and his partner but also got the name of the theater wrong, calling it the Trocadero, when in fact, Besser and Royce were appearing at the Palladium on the date in question.

June 20, 1938 – Palace Theatre, London, England – “International Week” with Joe Besser

Besser and Royce followed up their Palladium triumph with successful shows at a couple of other London theaters.

June 27, 1938 – Holborn Empire, London, England with Joe Besser

July 18, 1938 – Joe Besser Arrival in New York

Joe and his wife Ernie left Southampton, England on July 13, 1938 aboard the Queen Mary and arrived five days later in New York.

November 24, 1938 – Lee Royce Arrival in New York

Lee, under his real name Martin Levy, left Southampton, England on November 19, 1938 aboard the Normandie and arrived five days later in New York.  The passenger list gives his birth year as 1905, rather than the correct one of 1907, but the month and day (May 12) are accurate.

December 2, 1938 – Brooklyn Strand Theater, Brooklyn, NY – “Giant 10 Star Show” with Joe Besser

Just over a week after returning from England, Royce was back with Joe Besser and appearing in Brooklyn.

January 27, 1939 – Rivera Theatre, Brooklyn, NY – “WHN Refugee Theatre of the Air” with Joe Besser

In addition to entertainers Gus Van and Joe Besser, this show featured performers who were refugees from Europe (mostly Jews escaping Nazi Germany but some Catholics and Protestants, as well).  The “Refugee Theatre of the Air” had been appearing on WHN radio on Friday nights for a couple of months.

Though panning the show overall, Variety thought, “Besser is a comedy smash with his zany delivery, getting sock singing support from straight-man Lee Royce.”

March 10, 1939 – RKO Boston, Boston, MA – “RKO Variety Show” with Joe Besser

The reviewer for the Boston Globe called Besser a “corpulent zanny [sic] with a squeaky voice” and Royce “a personable young man who sings well.”

May 12, 1939 – Memorial Auditorium, Burlington, VT - Mt. Sinai Shrine “Mammoth Entertainment and Broadway Revue”

Royce takes a break from Joe Besser to appear solo in a show sponsored by the Mt. Sinai Temple Shrine.  According to the Shrine’s “illustrious potentate,” the organization had “decided to stage this event to give not only the Shrine but also the general public an opportunity of seeing a show of a magnitude seldom if ever seen before in Burlington, and at the same time, to assist in our public and charitable work.”

June 15, 1939 – Loew’s State Theater, New York, NY – N.T.G. Presents “Broadway Hilarities”

Royce is once again solo, briefly joining this stage show presented by promoter Nils Thor Granlund (who worked for the Loew’s theater chain) and headlined by French-Canadian actress/singer Fifi D’Orsay.  Future Oscar and Emmy Award winner Art Carney is listed on the bill just above Royce.

June 23, 1939 – Lyric Theatre, Indianapolis, IN – “Oh, You’re Crazy” with Joe Besser

This show was headlined by trumpeter/singer Johnnie “Scat” Davis, a native of Indiana, famous for introducing the song “Hooray for Hollywood” in the movie Hollywood Hotel (1937).

The Indianapolis News had praise for Royce, stating that Joe Besser is “assisted by Lee Royce, who unexpectedly turns out to be a first rate singer.”

An item in Dorothy Kilgallen’s gossip column (probably planted by a press agent) hints at a romance between Lee Royce and “London lass” Gwen Turner.  One can speculate that Royce met Turner during his stint in London the previous year.

August 19, 1939 – Oriental Theatre, Chicago, IL with Joe Besser

According to Variety, “Besser works hard and shrewdly for the variety audience, getting laughs out of mugging, material and delivery.  Royce comes through on his own with the vocal exercise.”

November 30, 1939 – Flatbush Theatre, Brooklyn, NY with Joe Besser

January 18, 1940 – Hollywood Cabaret Restaurant, New York, NY – “Glamor Girl Revue”

In another solo turn, Royce takes over as master of ceremonies at this swanky dinner club.

March 9, 1940 – Stratford Theater, Chicago, IL – “5 Big Acts” with Joe Besser

From The Billboard: “Joe Besser and his familiar ‘Aw, you crazy you’ turn is a tempting dish for this house.  He warmed up the audience almost immediately after his entrance and with his swell straight, Lee Royce, had them howling.  Royce stayed over to warble Donkey Serenade and Old Man River with a show-stopping baritone voice.”

March 22, 1940 – Downtown Theatre, Oakland, CA – “Easter Show” with Joe Besser

April 3, 1940 – Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles, CA – “La Conga Fiesta” with Joe Besser

As the Los Angeles Times explains, “Joe Besser and Lee Royce do some clowning which seems to please the customers.”  This was likely Lee Royce’s last appearance with Joe Besser.

April 19, 1940 – The Music Box, San Francisco, CA

Royce assumes the MC duties at the Music Box, described as “S. F.’s Gayest Theater Cafe.”  The San Francisco Examiner calls Royce “the New York musical comedy guy who looks like Robert Taylor and sings like nobody’s business…he’s an eighteen cylinder smoothie; just call him ‘Rolls.’”  The Music Box was owned by famous fan dancer Sally Rand and later became known as The Great American Music Hall (which still exists today).

August 26, 1940 - Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico – A. B. Marcus Show

Here’s where Royce begins a long association with the A. B. Marcus Show, a burlesque outfit that traveled the world.

The video below was recorded in May 1937 in Wellington, New Zealand.  It has no sound and was several years before Lee Royce joined, but it will give you an idea of what a Marcus Show looked like.

In addition, a program for this very performance exists in the National Library of New Zealand.  A description of the program reads:

“The Marcus Show. (With photos of Helen Palmer, Gwendolynn Smythe-Smythe, Agnes McCaffery, Josephine Hamilton, Holly Innocence, Bobby Huguenot, Imogene Howe, Ruth Sechrist, Alice Bellew). New Opera House Wellington. 8 May 1937 (1 programme); Grand opera House Wellington. 8 May 1937 (Programme - 2 copies)”

The National Library of New Zealand site is here:

Regarding the Marcus Show’s 1940 Mexico engagement, the Variety reviewer says this is the ninth week of a Mexico City tour, with two more to go, followed by a week in Puebla, Mexico and a stint at the Cine Alkazar in Havana, Cuba.


According to this article, the troupe was still in Havana on November 28, 1940.


December 6, 1940 – Arrival in Miami

Using his stage name on the ship’s manifest, Royce left Havana along with his Marcus Show cast mates on December 5, 1940 aboard the S.S. Florida and arrived the next day in Miami.


December 25, 1940 – Dipson’s 20th Century, Buffalo, NY – Marcus Show “Continental Revue”

January 3, 1941 - Lyric Theatre, Indianapolis, IN - Marcus Show

January 6, 1941 – Martin Levy Draft Registration Card

Here's that draft registration card again, this time in its proper place in the chronology.

With the expectation that the U.S. would eventually enter World War II, President Roosevelt signed into law the Selective Training and Service Act, which required all American men aged 21 to 45 to go to a polling place on October 16, 1940 and register for the draft.  Since Royce was busy touring Latin America with the Marcus Show on that date, it’s likely that he registered sometime after returning to the U.S.  On the card, Royce gave his address as the Mark Twain Hotel in Hollywood.  The Selective Service board in Los Angeles received it on January 6, 1941.

January 10, 1941 – Oriental Theatre, Chicago, IL – A. B. Marcus Show “Continental Revue”

January 17, 1941 - Minnesota Theatre, Minneapolis, MN - A. B. Marcus Show “A Night at the Moulin Rouge”

January 31, 1941 - Fox Theater, St. Louis, MO – A. B. Marcus Show “Continental Revue”

February 12, 1941 - State Theatre, Hartford, CT - Marcus Show “La Vie Paree”

March 30, 1941 - Strand Theater, Lansing, MI - Marcus Show “Continental Revue”

April 3, 1941 - Strand Theater, Lansing, MI - Marcus Show “La Vie Paree”

April 28, 1941 - Civic Theatre, Portland, ME - Greater Marcus Show “La Vie Paree”

May 26, 1941 - Lyric Theatre, Fitchburg, MA - A. B. Marcus Show “Continental Revue”

June 8, 1941 - Paramount Theatre, Long Branch, NJ – A. B. Marcus Show “Continental Revue”

June 16, 1941 - State Theatre, Harrisburg, PA - Marcus Show “La Vie Paree”

September 5, 1941 - Maryland Theatre, Cumberland, MD - Marcus Show “La Vie Paree”

September 13, 1941 - New Bradford Theatre, Bradford, PA - Marcus Show “Continental Revue”

September 15, 1941 - Drake Theatre, Oil City, PA - Marcus Show “Revue Continental”

September 24, 1941 - Florentine Gardens, Los Angeles, CA - N.T.G. “Gayeties of 1942”

Royce is back with the N.T.G. troupe at a Los Angeles cabaret restaurant.  The Los Angeles Times calls him “exceptional male talent,” “tall, dark and handsome,” and says he “hails from the New York stage.”  As we’ve seen, Royce’s participation in Broadway shows was probably limited to the chorus, certainly without any billing.

December 17, 1941 - Ohio Theatre, Mansfield, OH - Marcus Show “Revue Continental”

December 19, 1941 - Bill Jordan's Bar of Music, Miami Beach, FL

Royce is back to playing nightclubs, this time in Miami Beach.


Columnist Jack Kofoed reveals how women feel about Royce’s singing.


January 26, 1942 - Auditorium Theatre, Malden, MA - Marcus Show

It seems likely that, despite his name appearing in this Massachusetts newspaper display ad for the Marcus Show, Royce wasn’t actually there, since he was currently in the middle of a run at Bill Jordan’s place in Miami Beach.

March 19, 1942 - Jimmie's, Miami, FL

Royce moves over to a different nightclub, less than 10 miles away.  The Miami News describes him as “a singer who has performed in several well-known Broadway musical comedies, as well as in European spots before the war broke out.  He is one of the best vocalists presented at Jimmie’s in many weeks.”

April 9, 1942 - Jimmie's, Miami, FL

Royce adds master of ceremonies to his singing duties.

Jack Kofoed reports that Royce supplies voices for Max Fleischer’s Superman and Popeye cartoons.  Fleischer’s studio was located in Miami.

July 10, 1942 - Yacht Club, Pittsburgh, PA – “Laffs-A-Cookin'”

Little Jackie Heller was a vaudeville entertainer who became a nightclub proprietor.  In 1942, he presented a new musical revue called “Laffs-A-Cookin’” that starred Ralph (Cookie) Cook and featured Lee Royce, who doubled as singer and emcee.  Despite an ad claiming that the show was bound for New York, it instead moved to Chicago.

August 8, 1942 - Stratford Theater, Chicago, IL – “Laffs-A-Cookin'”

“Laffs-A-Cookin’” moves to Chicago (along with Lee Royce) for a very brief two-day run.

August 20, 1942 - Capitol Theater, Madison, WI - Ada Leonard

In this show, headlined by Ada Leonard and Her All-American Girl Orchestra, Royce was part of a comedy duo, but unfortunately, the review doesn’t mention who Royce’s partner was.  “The comedy pair (one of the men was named Lee Royce) got off to a good start,” wrote reviewer William L. Doudna, “but stalled through the last five minutes or so, which wasn’t a good idea.”

December 2, 1942 - Civic Ice Arena, Seattle, WA - 12th Annual Shrine Ice Carnival

This was a four-day event, lasting through December 5th.  Royce doubled as singer and announcer.

December 4, 1942 - Colosimo's, Chicago, IL – “Laffs-A-Cookin'”

“Laffs-A-Cookin’” gives it another try, this time at Colosimo’s, but gets a bad review from Variety.  Plenty of show here,” writes reviewer Sam Honigberg, “but most of it, this time is pretty bad.”  He goes on to say, “Top non-comedy entertainer is Lee Royce, who knows how to use his fine baritone voice.  If he would only bring his songs up to date.  His set included The World Is Mine Tonight, Wagon Wheels and Old Man River.”  This time, the show lasted a bit longer – at least three weeks.

Colosimo’s was notorious for being founded by “Big Jim” Colosimo, known as Chicago’s first mob boss, who was gunned down in his own restaurant in 1920.

December 31, 1942 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “New Year’s Eve Midnight Show”

Lee Royce rejoins the Marcus Show for a New Year’s Eve performance in Atlanta.  The Marcus Show had played the first week of a months-long run at the Roxy on Christmas Day 1942, but as Variety has Lee Royce playing at Colosimo’s in Chicago during that time, I haven’t listed it here.

“Roy Rogers” receives billing just below Lee Royce, but it’s unlikely that this is the famous cowboy singer/actor of the same name.  The “real” Roy Rogers was by this time a big western movie star, and in public appearances typically got top billing.

January 1, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “La Vie Paree”

The Marcus Show continued its run at the Roxy until March 26, presenting a different show each week.

January 8, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Crazy Capers”

I’ve been unable to verify that Royce appeared on this particular week, but since it’s possible/likely, I’ve listed it here.

January 15, 1943 - Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Yankee Doodles of 1943”

Royce’s appearance this week is verified.

January 22, 1943 - Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Deep South Revue”

Royce’s appearance this week is verified.

January 29, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Fiesta”

Royce’s appearance this week is verified.  According to the Atlanta Journal, “the ebullient baritone” gave “a stentorian rendition of ‘Begin the Beguine.’”

February 5, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Merry-Go-Round of 1943”

Royce’s appearance this week is unverified.

February 12, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Music Box Revue”

Royce’s appearance this week is unverified.

February 19, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Folies des Femmes”

Royce’s appearance this week is unverified.

February 26, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Youth and Beauty”

Royce’s appearance this week is unverified.

March 5, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Circus Daze”

Royce’s appearance this week is unverified.

March 12, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Artists and Models”

Royce’s appearance this week is verified.  The Atlanta Journal tells us that, “Lee Royce, the Marcus baritone, got an enthusiastic response to his rendition of ‘Road to Mandalay.’”

March 19, 1943 – Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “Pretty Baby”

Royce’s appearance this week is verified.  He was the emcee of this show.

March 26, 1943 - Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA – A. B. Marcus Presents “So Long”

Royce’s appearance is verified.  This is the final performance in the Marcus Show’s long run in Atlanta.  The display ad says the run has lasted 15 weeks, but since it started on Christmas Day 1942, by my count, that’s 13 weeks.  Royce received one of his best reviews for this performance.  “If any of the performers could be singled out for special mention,” wrote the Atlanta Constitution, “it would be Lee Royce, who presented a stirring medly of old songs, none the least of which are ‘Over There’ and ‘My Buddy.’  This act, well timed and well presented, drew a tremendous hand from the audience.”

April 2, 1943 - Oriental Theatre, Chicago, IL – A.B. Marcus “All New Roadshow”

The Marcus troupe takes a brief detour to Chicago before returning to Atlanta.  This Billboard review contains one of the most detailed descriptions of a Marcus show.  And of course, Royce is mentioned: “Lee Royce, handsome baritone, scores with sure-fire World War I songs.”

April 23, 1943 - Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA - A. B. Marcus Presents “Easter Parade”

Marcus returns to Atlanta to a favorable response: “A jam-up show, one of Marcus’ best here…a packed house (in spite of the damp weather) applauded loudly and long.”

April 30, 1943 - Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA - A. B. Marcus Presents “The Girl in the Moon”

After this week, the Marcus Show continued in Atlanta for a couple more months, through June 24.  Royce may have stayed on to the end of the run, but I have no confirmation of that.  In any case, this appears to have been Royce’s final run with the Marcus Show.

August 5, 1943 – Ambassador Theatre, St. Louis, MO – “Tons O’ Fun!”

Billy House, who had recently been with Olsen and Johnson’s Hellzapoppin’ show, headlines this similar stage revue.

September 3, 1943 - Mayfair Theatre, Dayton, OH – “Burlesk” With Scarlet Knight

Royce joins a new burlesque troupe, this time headlined by dancer Scarlet Knight.

October 8, 1943 - Gayety Theatre, Cincinnati, OH – “Bare Facts”

This show is headlined by dancer Eleanor Sheridan and comedian Kenny Brenna.

November 29, 1943 – Fort Leonard Wood, MO – USO Show

Royce now begins a stint with the USO, providing entertainment for the troops.  According to The Billboard, this engagement was to last six months.  Royce performs the duties of straight man, emsee, and “in his own act” – presumably as a singer.  Also in the cast is clown Tommy “Bozo” Snyder (birthname Thomas Foster Bleistein).  Information from here on is sketchy, as USO shows were rarely mentioned in civilian newspapers.  In February 1944, The Billboard reported that Royce was headed for overseas USO units.

June 1, 1944 - Aircraft 2335, Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico to Miami, FL

On this date, Royce, along with five other civilians – including fellow USO entertainer Tommy “Bozo” Snyder (Bleistein) – flew from an Army Air Force base in Puerto Rico to Miami.  We can speculate that they were entertaining the troops at the base.  According to Wikipedia, the 4th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (72d Reconnaissance Group) was assigned to Borinquen Field at the time.

October 1944 – England

On October 14, 1944, The Billboard reports that Lee Royce and Tommy “Bozo” Snyder are in England.

September 10, 1945 - Arrival in New York

Returning from another USO tour abroad, Royce left Southampton, England on September 5, 1945 aboard the S.S. Queen Mary and arrived five days later in New York.  World War II had officially ended on September 2nd.

April 1946 – United States, USO Hospital Circuit Tour

The Billboard reports that Royce and Bozo Snyder will be doing a tour of stateside hospitals for the USO.

June 1946 – Overseas – “Hellzapoppin’”

The Billboard reports that Royce and comedian Lou Ascol are headed “overseas” for a production of “Hellzapoppin’.”

August 2, 1946 - S.S. Queen Mary, New York to Southampton

Royce left New York aboard the S.S. Queen Mary on July 28, 1946 and arrived five days later in Southampton, England.

October 15, 1946 - Manchester Hippodrome, Manchester, England – “Your Blackpool Favourites”

Royce begins a late 1940s period of playing mostly British music halls.

April 12, 1947 - BBC Light Programme, “Variety Band-Box” Radio Show

April 15, 1947 - BBC Light Programme, “Round the Halls” Radio Show

This show was broadcast from the Empire Theatre in Croydon.

May 6, 1947 - Tivoli Theatre, Hull, England – “Here's That Gang Again”

Royce tours the music halls in a show called “Here’s That Gang Again” starring comedian Duggie Wakefield.  The Daily Mail states, “An American singer, Lee Royce, lacks neither power nor expression in his songs.”  From at least as far back as 1937, Wakefield typically had a “gang” of three cutups with him in his live shows and movies, originally Billy Nelson, Chuck O’Neil, and Jack Butler.  By 1947, Roy Jeffries had replaced Butler.

May 16, 1947 - Pavilion Theatre, Liverpool, England – “Here's That Gang Again”

May 26, 1947 - Dudley Hippdrome, Dudley, England – “Here's That Gang Again”

July 24, 1947 - S.S. America, Arrival in New York

Royce left Southampton, England on July 18, 1947 aboard the S.S. America and arrived six days later in New York.

January 23, 1948 - Swan Club, Philadelphia, PA – “The Show of Shows”

Back home in his native Philadelphia, Royce appears at a nightclub with headliner Herkie Styles.

December 24, 1948 - Colonial Inn, Hallandale, FL – “Minsky's Follies”

Harold Minksy, son of Minky’s Follies founder Abe Minsky, brings his style of burlesque entertainment from New York to Florida.  Lee Royce is there to take part in the fun.

April 1, 1949 - Club Monte Carlo, Miami, FL – “Monte Carlo Follies”

Following the success of Minksy’s Follies at the Colonial Inn, competing Club Monte Carlo lured away several of Minky’s entertainers, including Royce, for its own Monte Carlo Follies.  “If you remember Lee from the Follies revue, you’re in for a surprise” says the Miami News, “because, while he was a straight man in the comedy bits at Colonial Inn, he’s revealed at the Monte Carlo as a baritone of truly excellent quality…his show opening renditions of ‘Donkey Serenade’ and ‘Because’ are great, and he sings them feelingly and well.”

Dick Lowe, of the Miami News, relates a story of how Lee Royce got his first big break in show biz.  Tales like this should usually be taken with a grain of salt.

May 31, 1949 - American Overseas Airlines, New York to London

June 27, 1949 - Theatre Royal, Chatham, England

Royce is billed as “America’s Most Popular Radio Singing Star,” which is a pretty big stretch.

July 16, 1949 - BBC Television – “Music-Hall”

This television program starred comic actor Eric Barker, a name familiar to British radio, TV, and movie audiences of the 1940s and ‘50s.  It’s the earliest known appearance by Lee Royce on television.

September 5, 1949 - Empire Theatre, Glasgow, Scotland - Ben Blue Show

Royce joins American comedian Ben Blue for a tour of the music halls.

September 12, 1949 - Hippodrome, Birmingham, England - Ben Blue Show

Royce is singled out for praise by the Evening Despatch: “Chief applause last night…was reserved for the powerful singing of American Lee Royce.”

September 19, 1949 - Finsbury Park Empire Theatre, London, England - Ben Blue Show

September 26, 1949 - Empire Theatre, Nottingham, England - Ben Blue Show

“Lee Royce had a fine reception for his personality singing,” wrote the Nottingham Evening Post.

February 2, 1950 - S.S. America, Arrival in New York

Royce left Southampton, England on January 26, 1950 aboard the S.S. America and arrived a week later in New York.

April 6, 1950 – U.S. Federal Census

The 1950 census shows Royce living with his mother in Philadelphia.

February 10, 1951 - S.S. America, Departure from New York

February 17, 1951 - S.S. America, Arrival in Southampton

March 12, 1951 - Empire Sunderland, Sunderland, England – “It's a Great Laugh”

Royce joins the cast of “It’s a Great Laugh,” a stage show starring American-born film actor Bonar Colleano (who was based in the U.K.) and Jack Watson (known as “Hubert” in a comedy duo with his father Nozmo King).  The title appears to be a play on the name of a recent BBC radio show, “It’s a Great Life,” that had starred Colleano.

April 2, 1951 - Hippodrome, Birmingham, England – “It's a Great Laugh”

As reported in the Evening Despatch, “Lee Royce, billed as ‘America’s Personality Singer,’ puts plenty of verve into his work, and Eve Eacott joins him in melodious duets.”  Robert Moreton, a regular on the very popular radio show Educating Archie, replaces Jack Watson in the cast.  (In a sad sidenote, neither Colleano nor Moreton lived past the age of 35.)

April 27, 1951 - Empire Theatre, Liverpool, England – “It's a Great Laugh”

The Evening Times enjoyed “much top-note singing by Eve Eacott and Lee Royce.”

May 21, 1951 - Manchester Hippodrome, Manchester, England – “It's a Great Laugh”

“Baritone Lee Royce, also an American, and Eve Eacott offer pleasing musical interludes,” writes the Manchester Evening News.

June 24, 1951 - Coventry Hippodrome, Coventry, England - Ethel Revnell Show

Royce receives a favorable review from the Coventry Evening Telegraph: “The leavening of American talent into home-brewed variety bills – noticed with appreciation recently – continues with the inclusion in the bill of Lee Royce, American singer with a powerful and pleasing voice, who is encored enthusiastically on his first appearance in Coventry.”  Ethel Revnell first achieved fame in a comedy duo with Gracie West in the 1930s but went solo after West retired in 1946.  Royce had appeared on the same bill with Revnell and West in 1938 at the London Palladium, when he was with Joe Besser.

July 12, 1951 - Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells, England – “Music For The Millions”

Royce joins Bonar Colleano again, this time for a different show at the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells.  While the program was praised, it wasn’t well-attended, with fewer than 100 people in the audience.

July 16, 1951 - Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol, England - Bonar Colleano

Royce appears in yet another show headlined by Bonar Colleano.  The Bristol Evening Post had nice things to say about him.  “American singer Lee Royce,” it noted, “gets a big ovation for a brand of singing that is a good deal superior to that of some of his more publicized fellow-countrymen who have preceded him in Bristol.”

July 23, 1951 - Coventry Hippodrome, Coventry, England – “All-Star Variety” with Ethel Revnell and Bonar Colleano

This time Ethel Revnell and Bonar Colleano team up to headline the show at the Coventry Hippodrome.  The Birmingham Post opined, “Throughout the programme the accent is on quality.”

October 1, 1951 - S.S. America, Arrival in New York

Royce left Southampton, England on September 25, 1951 aboard the S.S. America and arrived six days later in New York.

January 13, 1953 - Beth-El Synagogue Auditorium, Camden, NJ - Junior and Senior Sisterhoods of Beth-El Synagogue Annual Donor Luncheon

In the last public performance I’ve been able to find by Lee Royce, the singer appears as part of a luncheon event at a local synagogue.  Though Philadelphia (where Royce lived) and Camden are in different states, they’re just across the Delaware River from each other, a mere minutes away by car.

April 21, 1954 – Death of Elizabeth Levy

Lee’s mother died in 1954 and is buried at Har Nebo Cemetery, where both Lee and his father are buried.  The death certificate was signed by Lee’s older brother Bennie.