This week our Superstars series turns the spotlight on one of the USA’s most famous queens of the classic burlesque heyday. With an incredible career on stage and screen, Ann Corio began as a showgirl in New York in 1925 and danced her way through the 1930s, before entering the world of film and television in the 1940s. She then returned to the stage as a straight actress in the 1950s and even after she had officially retired, she was still touring her revival show ‘This Was Burlesque’ well into the 1980s.
Who was Ann Corio?
Born in Connecticut to a large family of Italian immigrants, Ann Corio launched her stage career as a teenager and by the mid-1930s she was a favourite in the Minsky Brothers shows, where she was a headline act.
She relocated to Los Angeles in 1939, following the closure of many New York burlesque houses. In California, she left the burlesque scene, having become disillusioned by the increasing nudity and lewdness of the dancers and what she saw as the demise of the tease. She spent the early 1940s appearing in a number of B-movies and talk- and radio- shows, before moving back east to work in theatre. Several years later, she was inspired to launch her own show, ‘This Was Burlesque’ which celebrated the glamour of Corio’s own interpretation of classic burlesque.
How did she get into burlesque?
Ann was noted for her natural beauty and good figure, things which helped her greatly when she began her career in burlesque. When she first began performing, she actually did so in secret as she was only 15 years old. She started out as a chorus girl, but soon made her way up the ladder to become a star ‘teaser’ of similar status to Gypsy Rose Lee.
What style of burlesque did she perform?
As a ‘teaser’, Ann’s role was quite clearly defined. In those days, shows featured both ‘strippers’ and ‘teasers’. The former held a lower billing, and would strip to thongs and pasties or tassels. Teasers were the star attractions and they did exactly that; they teased their audience with promises of nudity and the prospect of a reveal, but they ultimately never ‘gave up the goods’, so to speak.
Some interesting facts about Ann Corio
*Very unusually in the world of burlesque, Ann chose not to be known under a stage name but used her own name instead.
*When her mother found out that a young Ann was performing burlesque, she was not best pleased, but eventually came round to the idea after seeing a show, on the condition that it was strictly “look but don’t touch!” on the part of the audience.
*In addition to producing her own show in the 1960s, Ann also wrote a book of the same name and released a soundtrack with instruction booklet entitled “How to Strip for Your Husband”.
If you’ve missed any of the Superstars series so far, you can catch up below: