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Doris Eaton Travis- The last surviving Ziegfield Girl died in 2010, at the age of 106

Ian Smith

When the lights on New York’s Broadway were dimmed on May 12, 2010, many young people heard the name of the last star of an era long forgotten, who left this world leaving tremendous light behind.

Doris Eaton Travis who died at the age of 106 on May 11, 2010, in Michigan, was the last living member of the chorus girls group famously known in the Broadway as the Ziegfeld Follies.

Travis began her sparkling career onstage as a young child, making her Broadway debut at the age of 13, for her young age up till the day Travis turned 16 she performed under pseudo-names to avoid getting caught under child labor laws.

A photograph of Doris Eaton Travis (1904-2010) in about 1920, during the Ziegfeld Follies years.
A photograph of Doris Eaton Travis (1904-2010) in about 1920, during the Ziegfeld Follies years.

Merely a year after her debut in 1918, Travis joined hands with the Ziegfeld Follies and was the youngest girl cast by the show ever.

Travis continued mesmerizing audiences all through the 1920’s and 1930’s, according to many historians as the golden era for Travis, with appearances in various silent films and a series of stage productions.

The Blue Bird Photo Credit
The Blue Bird Photo Credit

When Travis realized her career as a performer was declining, she took another path and decided to start working as an Arthur Murray dance instructor along with her appearances on Detroit TV as a celebrity host.

Her relationship with the Arthur Murray turned out to be long lasting, and Travis ended up working for Arthur Murray for over three decades.

Doris Eaton Travis in her youth
Doris Eaton Travis in her youth

During this time Travis came to own and manage a chain of over twenty dance schools and rose to another level of fame and acclamation.

In the later phases of her life, Travis owned a large horse ranch which she managed alongside her husband; she later returned to school and earned several degrees; one of many achievements under her belt.

The rise of the Eaton family to fame and recognition was no accident, it was the work of hard work and long-held dedication to art and performance.

The story begins with the three Eaton sisters, who after The Blue Bird, started appearing in various shows and melodramas along with their younger brother Joe, working for the Poli Stock Company.

Doris Eaton Travis in April 2010, aged 106
Doris Eaton Travis in April 2010, aged 106 Photo Credit

The group quickly rose to fame as they gained a reputation for being professional, reliable and above all versatile actors; the siblings were hardly out of work during that time.

When the Blue Bird returned to the stages in 1915, three Eaton sisters were asked to appear in the new production for Poli.

The Starring roles of Tyltyl and Mytl were given to the two sisters Mary and Doris respectively.

Photo of the Eaton sisters.
Photo of the Eaton sisters. Photo Credit

In the subsequent years, the siblings were extensively invited to reprise their roles for the road tour of The Blue Bird, and in New York, under the production of Shubert Brothers.

The other siblings also joined in especially brother Charles, who joined with Doris to appear in his first Broadway show, Mother Carey’s Chickens which was shown at the Cort Theatre.

Considering the busy showbiz lives of the children the entire Eaton family had to relocate to the New York City, where the children successfully pursued their careers in a number of successful stage projects.

Ian Smith

Ian Smith is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News