Tony Reese papers
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Tony Reese was a popular performer both in Philadelphia and nationally. He was born Attilio Resci in Troia, Foggia, Italy, in 1919 to Giusseppe and Vincenza Recsi. At the age of seven, he and his family, including his mother, grandmother, sisters Edith and Rose, and brother Corradino, emigrated from Italy to Philadelphia where they settled in the southern portion of the city. He attended John Wayne Grammar School, Audenreid Junior High School, and South Philadelphia High School. For a short time he worked for a local optician, but he entered the U. S. Army at the start of World War II. He attained the rank of sergeant, served in the Pacific Campaign, and received a Bronze Star and Victory Medal in the Medical Corps.
Reese returned to Philadelphia upon being discharged from military service. He found work as an entertainer in local clubs. In Wildwood, New Jersey, he met fellow entertainer Pepper Davis. Davis’s original name was David Asner. He was from Baltimore and entered show business at a young age. Upon recommendation from a friend, Reese and Davis performed together.
Davis and Reese stuck together and became a very popular comedy team that performed nationally and internationally throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to appearing at venues in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, they toured the U. S. for an extended run of shows, gave a command performance for Prince Ranier and Princess Grace of Monaco, and performed at the Palladium in London, England, for a year. The duo also made numerous television appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Steve Allen Show, The Tonight Show, and the Dean Martin Show. Additionally, they appeared as themselves in The George Raft Story (1951) and Where the Boys Meet the Girls (1965). Another highlight of their career was as headliners in “Hello America,” a stage production based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After twenty-three years together, Reese and Davis decided to part ways. Davis went on to pursue a film career while Tony Reese returned to Philadelphia. He met and eventually married Francine Cirincione. He also teamed up with another performer named Pasquale D’Orio. Together as Pasquale and Reese they performed together for several decades at a number of local establishments.
Reese died in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, in January 2013. He is buried at Cherry Hill's Locustwood Memorial Park.
The Tony Reese papers are housed in eleven boxes and span the bulk of Reese's career as a professor entertainer. While the collection dates from the 1950s to 2000s, it's centered on the earlier part of Reese’s career from the late 1950s to the late 1960s and his work with Pepper Davis as the comedy duo Davis and Reese. Comprising the bulk of the collection are files on comedy routines, which contain scattered correspondence and musical arrangements for songs used during their acts. There are also programs and advertisements for Davis and Reese’s shows, as well as some photographs of the duo and of Reese himself. Save for biographical items and obituaries, there are no papers in the collection that significantly document Reese’s personal life.
The collection has been divided into two series. The first series, Comedy routines and personal papers (Boxes 1-4 & 11 and Flat File 1), contains professional biographies on Davis and Reese used for press releases, press photographs of the duo in action as well as single and group headshots, and a group of telegrams Reese received when he was on the road during the 1950s and 1960s (Box 1, Folders 1-4). Making up most of this series are comedy routines, which are subdivided into those written by the duo (Box 1, Folders 8-14) and those written by others for them (Box 2, Folders 1-29). Each folder is identified by the titles of the skits it contains. The scripts are usually typed, though some are handwritten, and many contain annotations, corrections, and other edits. Some of the folders of routines written by other authors contain letters to Reese. Please be advised that a number of the comedy routines contain mature themes that some readers may find offensive, including sexual innuendo, drug references, and stereotypical portrayals of women and various ethnic groups.
Comprising the remainder of Box 2 and Boxes 3 and 4 are chronologically arranged folders that house programs and advertisements featuring David and Reese. These date from the 1950s to the 1990s. Posters of a similar nature can be found in Flat File 1. At the end of the series is a box (Box 11) containing audio-visual items that include comedy and song recordings, as well as two movies on DVD that featured Pepper and Reese: The George Raft Story (1961) and Where the Boys Meet the Girls (1965)
The second series, Musical arrangements (Boxes 5-10), is comprised of handwritten or printed music that was either sung by Reese and/or Davis or used to accompany their performances. Scattered among the arrangements are a few published pieces of music. This portion of the collection is arranged alphabetically by song title.
Gift of Francine Reese, 2013.
Accession number 2013.095.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto.
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2014
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from Francine Reese.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright may apply to some of the materials in the collection, especially the published music, movies, and recordings. Please contact HSP's Rights and Reproduction department for questions concerning the use of potentially copyrighted items.
Phonographic record (33 1/3 RPM): The Comedy World of Pepper Davis and Tony Reese (1969)
Phonographic record (45 RPM): "Just About This Time Tomorrow"/"Lesson in Love" (undated) [3 copies]
Phonographic record (45 RPM): "The Roots of My Name"/"Theme for a Woman" (1977)
DVD: The George Raft Story (1961)
DVD: When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965)
CD: The Comedy World of Pepper Davis and Tony Reese (LP to CD transfer, 2009)