Elsie Janis—child actor, Vaudevillian, stage and film performer, writer, director, songwriter—was born Elsie Jane Bierbower in Columbus, Ohio. Janis’s career in the performing arts was long and varied—from her childhood when she began doing imitations of celebrities in Vaudeville, to her starring roles on the stages of New York, London, and Paris, to the battlefield where she entertained troops in France and England during World War I, to Hollywood where she acted, wrote for film, and supervised productions.
While her career took her away from Columbus, Janis was always proud to be an Ohioan. As she often shouted to the troops she entertained in France in 1918, “Do I come from Ohio? By damn, yes!” Her involvement in World War I began in 1914 in London where she watched England’s young men march off singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”
The period following the war was hard for Janis. The experience of entertaining the troops had been exhilarating and meaningful for her. As Janis said in her autobiography So Far, So Good!, “[T]he war was my high spot and I think there is only one real peak in each life!”
By Nena Couch, Curator
The Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute
The Ohio State University Libraries