No Biz Like Show Biz
by Tony Coppi
Brown County has its own legends of the Broadway Theatre. For 20 years Harry David Snow and his wife Jeanne starred and appeared in many shows on Broadway and on national television.
They retired from the bright lights in 1972 and have been living in Nashville since that year.
Mr. Snow appeared in television on The Tonight Show, Stop the Music, Show of Shows, and with Peter Lind Hayes, Arthur Godfrey, and Norman Brokenshire.
He had roles in national Broadway productions of Brigadoon, John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, Mister Roberts, Oklahoma!, Once Upon a Mattress, Wish You Were Here, and others.
Mrs. Snow was a professional dancer. She had outstanding roles in Something for the Boys with Ethel Merman and performed on Frank Sinatra’s first television show, the Kate Smith Show, Ed Sullivan, Perry Como, and other television variety shows. She was in Call Me Mister starring Carl Reiner, Buddy Hackett, and William Warfield.
Harry David Snow was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania. After his father’s death, Harry David spent his adolescent and teen years in Hershey, Pennsylvania at the Hershey Industrial School.
During WWII he served in the Navy Reserve as a pharmacist mate. After the war he enrolled in the Franklin and Marshall (F&M) College of Medicine in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Someone heard him sing there and suggested auditioning at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Music appealed to him more than medicine so he left F&M to study voice with an emphasis on opera tenor at Curtis.
Music school students were given tickets to Broadway shows. The show High Button Shoes starring Eddie Foy Jr. and Audrey Meadows made a big impression on Mr. Snow. “After the show I went back stage and met the stage manager. I told him that I liked the show so much that I would like to be in it. Just then the orchestra conductor was coming out and heard from the stage manager what I said. He asked, ‘What do you do?’ I said I was a singer, a tenor. He took me out on the stage, went into the orchestra pit and played the last sixteen bars of the Star Spangled Banner and I sang. Then he said, “What size shoes do you wear?’ I didn’t know that meant that I had a job. That was my first job on Broadway. Incidentally Jeanne (not yet my wife) had a part in that show,” recalled Mr. Snow.
From then on he played many roles in many well-known Broadway shows. He had the role of Ensign Pulver in Mr. Roberts, which was directed by Josh Logan. He was Charlie Dalrymiple in Brigadoon, Curly in Oklahoma, the Minstrel in Once Upon A Mattress, and Hero in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
In 1963, President John Kennedy asked him to sing at the White House in a command performance. Mr. Snow had met the president when he was a congressman. JFK had seen Mister Roberts three times. He admired Snow’s work in musicals. The occasion was a lunch entertaining the King of Morocco.
He performed with Carol Burnett in Once Upon a Mattress at the Phoenix Theatre in Lower Manhattan. Burnett was an unknown at that time but her brilliant performance in the show launched her career to stardom.
An album was made of the show and it received many awards. “I introduced the show and sang ‘Many Moons Ago.’ I was dressed as a troubadour holding a lute instrument,” Mr. Snow recalled.
Jeanne (then Jeanne Jones) was born in Middletown, Indiana. Jeanne’s mother put her in dance school at an early age. Marjorie of Marjorie Jeanne’s School of the Dance in nearby Muncie, Indiana, recognized Jeanne’s promise and took her to Philadelphia to study with the Littlefield dancers. Jeanne was studying at Ball State and working as an assistant instructor at the dance school at that time. “I left Ball State and went to Philadelphia. I later studied at the American School of Ballet with George Balanchine, who was considered by many as the most influential ballet choreographer of the 20th century. He chose me to be in the Song of Norway, which I danced in for two and one half years,” she remembered.
On the Stop the Music show with host Bert Parks she was featured in the commercial as the Old Gold dancing cigarette package. She was encased in the cigarette pack with only her legs showing from the waist down as she danced. It was a popular commercial that was aired for more than two years. Dennis James was the announcer.
She appeared regularly on the Milton Berle and Martha Raye television shows for two years.
Although they had separate careers they played on Broadway together in two shows, Brigadoon and Stop the Music.
Early in his career Mr. Snow was a winner on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show, singing ‘0 Sol A Mio.’ “After the show Mr. Godfrey said to me, ‘I hope, Harry, that I meet you twenty years from now.’ And you know it was almost to the day when they awarded me with the ‘Man of the Year Award’ at the Hershey School and the man giving out the award was Arthur Godfrey.”
When they retired and settled in Nashville they opened an antique shop called Antediluvian in the Ferguson house. They had another shop called Turkey Talk.
When asked what their favorite show was after playing in so many successful performances, Mr. Snow chose the nonmusical Mr. Roberts and the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Mrs. Snow selected her solo ballet performance in Song of Norway and her appearance in Wonderful Town with Rosalind Russell. “Nothing replaces being a part of show business,” said Mrs. Snow. “In retrospect, I think it was wonderful just to be able to dance.”