Tony Hart was an American actor, singer,
and comedian with the popular comedy team
of Harrigan & Hart. Harrigan & Hart are often
credited with helping establish and popularize
musical-comedy theater in the United States.
Biographical fast facts
Original name at birth: Anthony J. Cannon
Date and place of birth: July 25, 1855,
on Hill Street, near St. Anne's Church, Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Date, time, place and cause of death: November 4, 1891,
at 2:30 a.m., Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A. (Complications from paresis and advanced syphilis)
Wife: Gertie Granville (m. 1882 - 1890) (her death)
Anthony Cannon made his professional singing
debut in Boston. But it was in Chicago where
he would meet his future comedy partner,
Ned Harrigan, and plant the seeds of a grand
stage career that would take him to the
heights of Broadway. After changing his
name to Tony Hart, Harrigan & Hart was born.
Harrigan & Hart were best known for
The Mulligan Guards, which premiered in
1873. After becoming their signature piece,
the Guards would be featured in many of
their most popular slapstick skits and
plays. Because of his short height and
slight build, it usually fell to Hart to
portray the female roles in their comedy
sketches and plays. His female impersonations
were so good, some audience members refused
to believe he wasn't a woman. Their comic
antics dominated the New York stage during
the 1870s and early 1880s.
The acclaimed comedy team gave their final
Broadway performance on May 9th, 1885. Fans
were heartbroken when they learned the most
popular comedy duo on Broadway had gone
their separate ways. Hart went on to appear
in other productions, but never came close
to attaining the level of success he did
with his former comedy partner.
Following the breakup, Tony's medical problems
quickly mounted, and his financial situation
became dire. March 22, 1888, his friends,
supporters and fans put on a benefit that
raised a good sum of money for his medical
treatment and living expenses. He suffered
from a variety of maladies stemming from
paresis, and advanced syphilis. Ultimately,
dementia robbed Tony of his memories, and
his final years were spent in and out of a
state mental institution. Tony Hart was
just 36 when he died.
Nearly a century after Harrigan & Hart's
heyday, a $2 million Broadway musical,
Harrigan 'n Hart opened. Directed by
Joe Layton, the musical told the story of
Ned Harrigan and comedy partner Tony Hart's
struggle to rise to the top of late 19th
century Broadway theater. Harry Groener
portrayed Ned Harrigan, and Mark Hamill
(of Star Wars fame) played Tony Hart.
The show opened at the renowned Longacre
Theater, January 31st, 1985, and closed
February 3rd, 1985, after just a handful
of performances, and a couple dozen previews.
The show was a flop, with the New York Times
calling it "dull" and "aimless." Nonetheless,
both Harry Groener and Mark Hamill received
Drama Desk Award nominations in the Outstanding
Actor in a Musical category, for their performances.
The most in-depth of more than two dozen sources
consulted in preparing this profile, was the 1980
biography, Ned Harrigan: From Corlear's Hook
to Herald Square, by Richard Moody.
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