Posted on 07/16/2015

Photo taken on August  1, 1933

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Norton and Margot
Margot Webb
Harold Norton
African Americans

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Photo replaced on July 21, 2015
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Norton and Margot

Norton and Margot
Famed ballroom dancers Margot Webb and Harold Norton a duo known to their adoring fans as Norton and Margot. They filled ballrooms on a regular basis dazzling crowds with their moves. Webb made her debut in 1933 and performed until 1947. During their years together, Norton Webb performed numerous times at the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York 1933-39. The two danced the Waltz, Tango and Bolero. Their success led to them to performing in London, Paris and Germany before WWII.

She was born Marjorie Smith, and grew up in Harlem, New York in its heyday. Seduced by ballet and other "Europeanist" genres, she dropped out of Hunter College, and wore herself out building a career as an adagio dancer in vaudeville between the late 1920s and the mid '40s.

In 1933, using the stage name Margot Webb, she formed a partnership with Harold Norton, and the team of "Norton and Margot" was born.

Their career was emblematic of the paradoxes and double standards which existed for black artists in white America. Had the pair been tap dancers, lindy hoppers, or an exotic act, they might have gained a reputation in the mainstream entertainment industry.

Webb was light enough to pass for white though she never did, and her partner was often mistaken to be Spanish. But because they identified themselves as black, they were paid less, booked less, booked at less popular places, not allowed to stay in hotels next to their bookings, and shown off as spectacle than entertainment.

After their 1933 debut in New York, the team performed with major bands of that era, including Roy Eldridge, Chick Webb (no relation to Margot), Earl Hines, Noble Sissle and Louis Armstrong. They toured extensively on the Black Vaudeville circuits in the East and Midwest. In 1937 they toured Europe first as part of the Cotton Club Revue and, later, as an independent act on Continental variety shows. They were well known in the Black nightclub and vaudeville circuits for fifteen years, filling a position in Black entertainment that faded into oblivion by the time of their retirement in 1947.

Upon retirement Ms. Webb became a physical education teacher. Her partner Norton, dropped out of sight.

Bio: Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era by Brenda Dixon Gottschild

Studio portrait; Murray Korman; Celebrities and performers; Publicity photo