I learned that this once well-known Vaudeville performer, Broadway and movie actress was originally from Amsterdam, NY when I read about her in Hugh Donlon’s book “Annals of a Mill Town.” Donlon not only referred to Inez Courtney as a “native” of Amsterdam in that book, he made the same reference in several of his popular “Main Street” columns which he wrote for the Recorder during the height of this entertainer’s career in the late 1920’s and 30’s.
But when I began to dig deeper into her life, I found some contradictory information about Courtney’s birthplace and her age. Both her Wikipedia and Internet Movie Database (IMDb) bio’s listed her birthplace as New York City and her birth date as March 12, 1908. I, however came across a December 1905 issue of the Amsterdam Evening Recorder in which was published letters to Santa written by young residents of this community. One of those letters was written by “Inez Courtney” of “76 Prospect Street.” She couldn’t have written that letter in 1905 if she was born in 1908, so I’m guessing at some point during her stage and movie career, Ms. Courtney not only shaved a few years off her age, she must have also stopped referring to Amsterdam as her native home, instead adopting the much more exotic Big Apple as her birthplace.
What we do know for certain about this multi talented woman was that she could dance, sing and act well enough to become a very successful performer on both stage and screen. Her professional career started in Vaudeville, where after performing in Capital District area theaters she was picked up by the B.F. Keith Vaudeville Circuit and paired with a male dancer whose stage name was Sid Keyes. Courtney and Keyes went on national tour, even making a stop here in Amsterdam’s Rialto Theater. Tragedy brought the curtain permanently down on the dancing duo’s act one late March evening in 1926, when Keyes suffered a fatal heart attack in the dressing room of a Milwaukee theater just before he and Courtney were about to take the stage….
I’ve already started work on the second volume of “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays” and Inez Courtney’s complete story will be featured in it. I will be sharing the complete posts of some of the Volume II birthday celebrants in future issues of the Amsterdam Birthday Blog Newsletter. If you are not yet a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up for free here.