John James (Jack) (Snuffy) Tracey (1897 – 1978), burlesque comedian and musician.



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Circa 1934, Marjorie Celeste Belcher (Margie Bell) with Jack Tracey, live-action models for Disney's Snow White.


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3 June 1936 The Era


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4 June 1936 The Stage



Phyllis Dixey


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Jack Tracy & Phyllis Dixey



Sources on the internet states that he was the son of John Tracey, a Co. Wicklow lighthouse keeper and that after the death of his mother was raised in a convent before being sent, at the age of 5, to America. [The best match for him is Kingstown – Dun Laoighre, south County Dublin]


In a report dated March 12, 1946 in the ‘Cincinnati Enquirer’ states that he was a Greenwich Village night club comic and trombonist with Ben Bernie's Orchestra. It would appear that he also had a stage career as a dancer, and has been credited with being the human model for Mickey Mouse and Popeye, and for the Snow White film.


Around 1931, he began performing as a duet with Lita Vinette as ‘Tracy and Vinette’ along the east coast of the USA, describing themselves as a duo who provide considerable laughter with their songs, dances and humour. In 1933, the act began playing in England using the tagline ‘The sap and the swell dame’. In October, the following review appeared in Variety:


“Sep 18 Palladium London To create atmosphere, the regular Palladium gals, were darkened up for the occasion, with another white act, Tracy and Vinette, also American, likewise assuming a dark tint...Tracy and Vinette, who laid ant egg some, weeks ago at Leicester Square on their English debut, have Improved beyond recognition. Team came in when laughs were needed badly and cleaned up. They now seem to be a safe standard act here...Tracy and Vinette were the outstanders. Business was surprisingly bad, with audience in unreceptive mood.”


In 1935, they were employed by Concordia Films to make a film in Yugoslavia in which Vinette, aged 24, playing an old witch aged 68. The title was stated as 'Pepino,' but may have been released in 1937 as ‘The Robber Symphony’, which was shot at Shepperton Studios.


In September 1935, the act was playing in Sidney Australia, and was described as ‘the funniest duo In years’ and ‘Just one long loud laugh’. Also playing on the same bill was Phyllis Dixey.


4 September 1935 The West Australian

Impressed By Loyalty In Britain. American Dancer's Varied Interests.

Although Miss S. [or L] Vinette, who passed through Fremantle by the Baradine yesterday, has spent only two years in England she has quite fallen in love with both the country and the people. 'I was amazed,' she said, 'at the expressions of loyalty and the obviously sincere love of the people for the royal family. To me — an American — it seemed like something out of a fairy tale. Somehow one cannot imagine such a feeling prevailing in America.' Accompanied by her sister, 'who acts as a chaperone,' she explained, her partner, Mr. J. Tracy, and other theatricals. Miss Vinette is bound for Melbourne under contract to the Tivoli Theatre. Speaking of her work, Miss Vinette regretted that the public did not appreciate the type of work she preferred, such as ballet and the better class of music, on the vaudeville stage. 'But I have to give them what they want,' she added philosophically, 'so I sing modern 'scat' songs and act as a foil to Mr. Tracy, who Is a comedian. 'Scat' songs, she explained in answer to an inquiry, are those sung in the style of Cab Calloway, the dance band conductor — loud, rather harsh and ac companied by strange antics. Work for the Films. Born in New York, Miss Vinette stated that she had been on the stage for the past 13 years. 'I do everything except tap dancing and I refused to learn it — it does not appeal to me at all.' For the past two years she has been touring England and is looking forward to seeing Australia. A considerable amount of film work stands to her credit, both in America, where she did dance sequences for various films, and England, where, before sailing, she had completed a new film called 'Pepino' for the Shepparton Studios. 'It is the first of Its type, being rather fantastical, the music depicting the actions of the players,' she explained. It was interesting to learn from Miss Vinette that her partner was the original of Micky Mouse. 'Years ago,' she said, 'before experiments were made with animated cartoons, the Paramount Studios were seeking a comedian from whom they could glean an idea of the possibilities of various antics for which Micky Mouse is now famous. Mr. Tracy was selected and carried out numerous tests. He filled the same role when 'Pop-Eye the Sailor Man' was first thought of.' A Quiet Life. Apart from her work, Miss Vinette prefers a quiet life. For exercise she goes riding regularly three times a week and also plays golf. 'I have never developed a passion for swimming,' she added, but was assured that this would come after a summer in Australia. Keenly interested in seeing everything there was to see, Miss Vinette and her sister were hurrying off the boat to spend the few hours before sailing in Perth. 'I cannot understand people who take no interest in the various ports of call,' she remarked. 'I am sure we are going to love Australia and were pleasantly surprised this morning to receive telegrams of welcome from the management in Melbourne — it seemed such a friendly action.'


In June 1936, it was reported that Jack Tracey and partner, Lita Vinette, have parted company after their Tivoli tour, and Tracey now working Brit vaudeville with a new girl. Jack said he had come to Australia for a change.


In May 1936, he teamed up with Inga Andersen, a Canadian singer, dancer and actress who was massively popular in the 1930s and 1940s but has now all but vanished without trace. Their routine of “The Sap and the Swell Dame” was very popular, played at various theatres, Hackney, Shephard's Bush and with Jimmy "Schnozzle" Durante at the Palladium. It got very good reviews:


"Then followed Jack Tracy and Inga Andersen, who did remarkably well for their early spot. Jack got big shrieks from the first moment of entry, which came again at his every manoeuvre, Inga added to the success of the act by her classy appearance, beautiful frocks, attractive figure, and dancing ability. She fits into the scheme of things like a glove, and gave Jack all the opportunity he required to get his eccentricities across.” (3 June 1936 The Era) [thanks to Phil Mackie]


Jack and Phyllis Dixey began touring in a dual variety act and on 8 December 1938 they were married at Raynes Park register office, Merton. The couple, who had no children, lived at 10 Fairbourn Road, Brixton, and at Wentworth Court, Surbiton, before moving in the early 1940s to Strand Lodge, Epsom. Jack was a shade over five foot, and some commentators have speculated on how he developed his relationship with Phyllis and also his wandering ways.


In October 1939, Tracey and Dixey were doing “The Sap and the Swell Dame” routine billing it as ‘first appearance in this country’. They then conceived a new routine and this time it was a fan dance and in November of 1939 at the Tivoli Theatre in Hull Phyllis performed her new routine. The report in the ‘Cincinnati Enquirer’ states that it Jack’s idea that Phyllis would make an ideal subject for an experiment in British reaction to the sort of thing he had seen Gypsy Rose Lee do back in the USA Jack 'Snuffy' Tracy was her husband, agent, and sometimes accompanist double act which featured gags, songs, music and a statuesque showgirl whose embonpoint he would become stuck in. Jack played trombone, but not quite so well. He was, however, adept at making rude noises with it, which proved surprisingly popular over the years.


Their great years were the war years. From July 1942 Dixey appeared at London's Whitehall Theatre in a series of popular revues, beginning with All's Fair (July 1942). In the following April, Tracy and Dixey leased the theatre to produce and star in Step out with Phyllis and Goodnight, Ladies! (March and December 1943), followed by Peek-a-Boo! and Peek-a-Boo Again! (May 1944 and July 1945). Billed as ‘England's popular pin-up girl’, Dixey also directed the Peek-a-Boo! revues,


After the war they faced the challenge of rival troupes, some offering increasingly explicit shows, and the decline of the appeal of variety theatre. In 1949 she took her act to Scandinavia, repeating the tours until 1954 though with declining levels of success and financial return. Indeed, on the final tour the performers' return to England was possible only with a loan from the British consul in Oslo. In June 1954 she was fined £5 by Scunthorpe magistrates for public indecency. In February 1957 she and Tracy were charged with failing to pay their performers during an earlier show. In 1959, they declared themselves bankrupt.


In November 1960 Phyllis moved, without her husband, to live at The Retreat, the home of her maternal uncle at 45 Downs Wood, Tattenham Corner, Epsom. Four months later she was diagnosed with breast cancer and, in the final months of her life, converted to Roman Catholicism. Phyllis Dixey died at The Retreat, Tattenham Corner, on 2 June 1964


Jack found work as a golf course steward, remarried in 1966 and lived in Surbiton until his death on 11 October 1978.


British Pathé:

‘Meet Phyllis Dixey’ 1944 http://www.britishpathe.com/video/meet-phyllis-dixey



The Robber Symphony (1937) ...Jack Tracy (The Bassoon Player)...Vinette (Fortune Teller)...

The One and Only Phyllis Dixey (1978) Lesley-Anne Down as Phyllis and Chris Murney as Jack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcf99J2LrCw



Charles Nevin (2010) Jack: Stories of Britain’s Favourite Name. Random House.









John Treacy, of fullage, bachelor, labourer, of Auburn Villa Monkstown Avenue Co. Dublin (s. of John Treacy, gardener) married Mary Hackman, of full age, spinster, servant, of Sheahanagh Lodge Shankill Co. Dublin (d. of James Hackman, labourer) Wit: Bernard Mahony & Lizzie Hogan 9th November 1889 Office of the Register Kingstown County of Dublin [Rathdown PLU]

John Tracey, labourer, of 7 Paradise Row [Kelly's avenue crossed out] & Mary Hackman

John James Tracey b. 8 April 1897 of Kelly's Avenue. Mary Tracey mother 7 Paradise Row. [Kingstown No.1 - Rathdown PLU]


1901 Census

John Tracey, 29, M, 3.1 Stoneview Place, Kingstown, Dublin, General Labourer, Catholic, Head of Family, Married, Co Dublin

Mary Tracey, 32, F, Stoneview Place, Kingstown, Dublin, Catholic, Wife, Married, Co Dublin

John Tracey, 3, M, Stoneview Place, Kingstown, Dublin, Scholar, Catholic, Son, Not Married



Last update: 27 November 2017