I remember listening to Fanny Brice on the radio as “Baby Snooks” when I was a small child. She seemed to mean more to my parents than just being the voice of a silly adult pretending to be a precocious baby. Brice, of course, was the subject of the musical "Funny Girl," but I've never seen it (sorry, can't stand Barbra S.)
So why was she so famous? For her comedy routines? For her notorious marriages and life style? Her criminal husband that she was more or less faithful to? Her influence on later female comedians?
According to Jewish Virtual Library:
"Born on the Lower East Side of New York in 1891, the third of four children of immigrant saloon-owners, Fania Borach decided early in life to become a performer. Historian Barbara Grossman notes that in an era in which entertainment was typically based on ethnic stereotypes -the drunken Irishman, the ignorant Pole, the Yiddish-accented greenhorn - Brice's 'Semitic looks' slotted her into Jewish roles. Despite her efforts to succeed as a serious actress and singer, Brice - who spoke no Yiddish - rose to stardom performing comedy with a Yiddish accent."
I suspect that she's nearly forgotten today, except to those who love the musical.