Leitzel Gets Married

Alexis Sousloff and his sister, Nana * photo courtesy of Lost Vaudeville website – see below for details and link
Nana and Alexis in 1912, (inset Alexis)
Nana and Alexis in 1912, (inset Alexis)

After the Leitzel Sisters spent the week of August 12 at the Forest Park Highlands Theater in St Louis, Leitzel made a quick excursion to New York, and on August 20, 1912, in City Hall, she married Alexis Sousloff, a dancer, who along with his sister and dancing partner, Nana, was appearing in Florenz Ziegfeld’s “A Winsome Widow.”

Sousloff was a classically trained dancer born in Moscow. He and his sister Nana had toured Europe before coming to America in 1910. Their act was variously billed as Nana and Alexis, Nana assisted by Mons. Alexis and The Sousloffs. Their style was described as whirlwind dancing. It was exuberant and acrobatic with touches of ballroom and ballet. In January 1910, they had appeared on the same bill as the Leamy Ladies at the Wintergarten in Berlin.

Little is known about the courtship that resulted in the nuptials, whether it was the rekindling of a romance that had blossomed in Europe or whether it was a lightning affair. However short it was, the marriage was shorter. While it officially lasted two years and nine months, it was effectively over before the week was out. According to George DeFeo, the husband of Sousloff’s sister and partner, Nana, Sousloff was just looking for a meal ticket, and he told his bride as much as soon as they were married. Unsurprisingly, this did not go over well with Leitzel.

The following week, Leitzel was back in vaudeville at the Orpheum in Sioux City, Iowa, and Sousloff and his sister had rejoined the cast of “A Winsome Widow.” There is no evidence the couple ever tried to reconnect. Leitzel was granted a divorce in May 1915.

It was reported in Billboard as follows:

Chicago, May 5 – Mlle. Leitzel, the feature act of the Ringling Shows, has been granted an absolute divorce from her husband. Alexis Sousloff. They were married in August, 1912, but lived together only a very short while. It is understood that the divorce was obtained because of desertion and nonsupport. No alimony was mentioned in the proceedings. (Billboard, May 15, 1915, p. 23)

After the divorce, Leitzel never spoke of Sousloff. If anyone asked about her first husband, she would tell them she couldn’t remember his name. In many accounts of her life, her marriage to Sousloff is not mentioned.

Sousloff eventually remarried, but stayed in show business. On and off, for a decade, he and his sister continued to dance together. Later, Sousloff worked in theater, radio and movies until his death of a heart attack in 1945.

*photo is reprinted courtesy of a great new website, Lost Vaudeville, devoted to the Blanche Townsend collection of vaudeville postcards and cabinet cards. The Sousloffs is one page of the website.