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Leonard Harper

Stage Name

Birth Name

Leonard Harper

Leonard C. Harper

Harper and Blanks Arsceola Blanks

    African-American Dancer and Choreographer. Son of Performer William Harper. Started dancing early in life as a tap dancer and after his father passed away, danced in traveling Medicine shows. Before Harper was 20, he and his new wife, Osceola Blanks, who herself was already a performer as the "Blanks Sisters" who worked the T.O.B.A. circuit (Theatre Owners Booking Association) as dancers "Harper and Blanks ... the Smart Set couple." Their act was based on the classy Ballroom dances of the day, which was unique for an African-American couple to perform, at the time, the "White Ballroom Dances" of the day on stage, altho they were not the only ones to do it, they where only one of a few who did. They retired their act in 1926

After dancing in Lew Leslie's Blackbirds. She then remained home as a house wife to Leonard.

    Later, during the 1920's, Harper would be instrumental in transforming Harlem into the cultural center it was thru his nightclub productions at Connie's Inn, Lafayette Theatre and the opening of the new Apollo Theatre which would draw people from all over the world. Harper was not just a producer, choreographer, dance instructor and director he was historically bigger, better in so that his theatre works left a lasting legacy and helped open the door of opportunity to black performers. Culminating all his directing, productions and choreography would change all future Broadway shows, especially thru his direction of the smash hit musical production entitled "Hot Chocolates" in 1929. He is also credited for directing the cabaret scenes in the first black talkie film ... The Exile.

    He managed both Connie's Inn and the Kentucky Club in Harlem in the early 1920s which was backed by mobsters. Later he moved to the Cotton Club and staged many productions there as well such as The Cotton Club Parade in 1935.

    Harper hired or worked with most of the big name talent that was working the nightclub circuit of the day, which included names like Bojangles, Florence Mills, Mae West, Malcolm X ( As a busboy-waiter), Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Vincent Minnelli ( His assistant) etc. In 1925, he also owned his dance studio in New York's Time Square ( Harper Studios) many then and future stars passed thru his doors, such as Fred and Adele Astaire, Busby Berkley's dance troupe and even the Marx Brothers.

    In the later part of the 1930's, the publics interest in these kind of stage shows was changing and would be the start of Harper's decline in staging and producing these type of shows in which he excelled at. By the 1940s, when he could get work, it was usually just as a choreographer, not as a producer. At age 45, Harper died of a heart attack while rehearsing a chorus line at Murrian's Harlem Club in 1943.

    Mr. Harper has been honored by the N.Y. Sate Assembly and the City Council of N. Y. for his remarkable achievements.


Birth Place

Birth Date

Spouse

Offspring

(Leonard) Chicago, Il 4/9/1898-2/10/1943 Osceola Blanks Leonard Harper Reid (Grandson)
(Osceola) Iowa 9/5/1897- Leonard Harper  

Dance Types

Dance Partners

Music Titles

  Dave Schaffer (w/ Clarence Muse)  
  George Freeman (comedian)  
  Osceola Blanks      
         
         
             
             

Night Clubs

Theaters

Stage

Connie's Inn (Mgr. and producer) Harlem Apollo Theatre Adam and Eve in Harlem (1929, produced)
Cotton Club (production, staging) Harlem Columbia Theatre Brown Skin Quinan Revue (1925, staged)
Kentucky Club (Mgr and Producer) Harlem Grand Terrace Cafe (1934) Chicago Rhythm (1935, produced)
Murrain's Hudson Theatre Cotton Club Parade (1925, staged)
Ubangi Club (Producer) Harlem New Amsterdam Theatre Dover To Dixie (1923, London)
        Frolics, the 1923 (w/Blanks)
        Harlem Cavalcade (1942)
        Harlem Follies
        Hot Chocolates (director) 1929
        Hot Feet
        Hot Harlem (1932, staged)
        Jimmie Cooper's Revue ?
        Lew Leslie's Blackbirds (danced and staged)
        Load of Coal (1929, Connie's Inn)
        Kentucky Club Revue
        Midnight Steppers (1927, produced)
        Mr and Mrs. Brown (dancer, 1912)
        Pepper Pot Review (1927, produced)
        Plantation Days (1922 W/ Blanks staged & danced)
        Rhythm For Sale (1934, produced)
        Round and Round in Rhythm (Staged)
        Shubert's Select (1921)1st Black Couple hired.
        Stranded in Africa (dancer, 1912)
        Swanee Club Review (1927, produced)
        Ubangi Club Follies (Staged)
         
                 
(above Stage : "w/ Blanks" means he danced with her here)

Films

Television

Publications

1931 - The Exile (Musical Director) n/a  
             

NOTE: n/a

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