Florence Tempest ~ The Cross-Dressing Dancer

Florence Tempest

Florence Tempest was a vaudeville performer who always played the role of a boy.

She was born Claire Lillian Ijames on June 25, 1889 in Louisville, Kentucky. Florence had two sisters and a brother. When she was a child she attended an Irish Catholic convent school and began performing at a local theater. After her father, Edward Ijames, died in 1902 her mother moved the family to New York City. She and her younger sister Marion Sunshine put together a vaudeville act called "Sunshine and Tempest". Florence (who was sometimes billed as Florenze Tempest) always played a male character. The petite brunette cut her hair short, wore masculine suits, and smoked a cigarette on stage. Sunshine and Tempest performed all over the country and became a very popular stage team. In 1907 the duo appeared in the first Ziegfeld Follies. Then they starred in the hit Broadway show Little Nemo. The press called them "Vaudeville's Most Lovable Boy and Daintiest Girl".

Florence TempestFlorence Tempest

Florence Tempest Marion Sunshine
With Marion Sunshine

In an interview Florence said "I always played the boy, while Marion was my sweetheart." Eventually she started a solo act where she continued to perform as a boy. She married producer Joseph E Shea on August 15, 1915. Just two months later he walked out on her. Florence starred in the Broadway shows La Belle Paree and Stop! Look! Listen! She reunited with Marion in 1915 to costar in the film Tempest and Sunshine. During the early 1920s she appeared in Earl Carroll's Vanities. Then she married vaudeville comedian Homer Dickinson. They performed together as "Broadway's Smart Couple" with Florence now dressing as a woman.  By 1940 she had retired from show business. She and Homer lived in a Los Angeles apartment with their dog. The couple remained happily married until his death in 1959.

Florence TempestFlorence Tempest

Florence performed in:
Ziegfeld Follies of 1907 (Jul 08, 1907 - Nov 10, 1907)