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Leonard Harper and Osceola Blanks 1923 | by puzzlemaster
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Leonard Harper and Osceola Blanks 1923

Leonard Harper and Osceola Blanks comprised the husband and wife dance act, "Harper and Blanks" Harper was the stage director of the traveling musical revue, Plantation Days, which performed in London in 1923. On Broadway, he directed the review, Hot Chocolates in 1929 and later choreographed the show, Harlem Cavalcade in 1942.


In 1915 Harper met and married Osceola Blanks of the Blanks Sisters. The pair formed a classy dance act modeled on the exhibition ballroom dance craze sweeping white vaudeville. Harper moved on to choreography, stage production in Chicago and New York. He managed both Connie's Inn and the Kentucky Club in Harlem in the 1920s. By 1925, he owned a dance studio in Times Square where black dancers taught black dance styles to white performers. He produced "black and white" touring shows. On Broadway, he directed the review, Hot Chocolates in 1929 and later choreographed the show, Harlem Cavalcade in 1942.



Harper also directed a musical sequence in Oscar Micheaux's movie, "The Exile" ( 1931, supposed to be the first sound feature made by African Americans.


An excellent biography of Leonard Harper is to be found here:




"LEONARD HARPER HAD A REMARKable story, and now, 55 years after his death, his grandson Grant Harper Reid is working to get it told.

Harper, who was born in Alabama in 1899 and came to New York as a teenager, became one of the guiding lights of New York nightlife in the '20s and '30s.

Fred and Adele Astaire came to Harper Studios to learn dance steps. So did Busby Berkeley's troupe and the Marx Brothers. Duke Ellington was one of his boarders, Billie Holiday sang for change at his club. He produced shows with the likes of Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Bojangles, and his nightclub production today is remembered in the same breath with the likes of the great Clarence Robinson who for a time was Harper's assistant. His other young staffers included Harold Arlen and Vincent Minnelli.

Before Harper was 20, he and his wife, Osceola Blanks, worked the TOBA circuit with artists like Bessie Smith. That was the Theater Owners Booking Association, better known as "Tough On Black A--es."

He performed with artists like Florence Mills. Mae West tried to get him film roles, and he directed the cabaret scenes in the first black talkie. At Connie's Inn and on Broadway, his financial backers included Dutch Schultz and Legs Diamond. He arranged private shows for Lucky Luciano and, late in life, befriended a young waiter and numbers runner who would become Malcolm X."


Leonard Harper was born 9 Apr 1898 in Chicago IL

Osceola Blanks was born Sep 5 1897 in Iowa



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Taken on March 7, 2009