Gallagher (b. Edward Gallagher, 1873, San Francisco, California, USA, d. 28 May 1929, Astoria, New York, USA) and Shean (b. Alfred Schoenberg, 12 May 1868, Dornum, Germany, d. 12 August 1949, New York City, New York, USA, were a popular vaudeville double act of the 20s, and appeared notably in some of the spectacular shows of Florenz Ziegfeld. Many of the shows in which Shean appeared were on Broadway and include the short-lived The Fisher Maiden (1903) and The Rose Maid (1912), in which he teamed up with Gallagher. Two years on from this, the pair fell out and split up their act. Shean’s sister, Minnie Marx, mother of the Marx Brothers, brought them together again in 1920. They were hired by Ziegfeld but the Shubert Brothers brought legal action against them, claiming that their act was ‘unique and irreplaceable’, a claim which Gallagher and Shean refuted, insisting instead that they were merely mediocre.
Regardless of their (presumably tongue-in-cheek) counterclaim they became hugely popular on Broadway, notably in Ziegfeld Follies Of 1922, in which they introduced their hit song, ‘Mister Gallagher And Mister Shean’. In passing, according to a Mark Hellinger newspaper piece in 1926, that song was written by Brian Foy, son of Eddie Foy, for which he was remunerated with the gift of a cigarette case. For a purple patch that lasted about five years, the team retained their popularity; one of their verbal exchanges could be heard in everyday conversations: ‘Positively, Mr Gallagher. Absolutely, Mr Shean.’ By 1926, however, the act had broken up again and Gallagher was throwing wild parties and drinking heavily. In time, the parties stopped but the drinking did not; Gallagher lived a few more years as a recluse, broke but supported by his first wife, whom he had earlier abandoned, and cared for by a manservant he could not afford to pay. After his former partner’s death, Shean appeared in mostly short-lived plays such as The Prince Of Pilsen andLight Wines And Beer (both 1930), Music In The Air (1932), Father Malachy’s Miracle (1937), Popsy (1941), Meet A Body (1944) and Doctor Social, which had only a three-day run in October 1948.