If you want a great look at what Vaudeville and Broadway were all about in 1929, go no further than "The Dance of Life." Paramount Pictures. Nancy Caroll. Hal Skelly. Superb!
It depicts quite graphically, the hazards, the stress, and the perks of life on the road. The filthy dressing rooms. The endless waits in cold train stations. The careless and sometimes malevolent managers. The petty jealousies of fellow performers. The miniscule pay. The grit, determination, belief in yourself it takes to carry on such a life. All for a few minutes in the limelight.
As you pointed out, this plot was used again and again on stage and in the movies: Two vaudevillians meet, fall in love, form an act; he becomes a star, leaves her behind for the "bright lights," succeeds only to fall prey to women and booze, she marries, but can't resist rescuing her alcoholic ex-partner. Yes, it's a tearjerking corny story, but it rings true. ESPECIALLY as played by Carroll and Skelly. He recites "True Blue Lou" while reclining on stage. A touching, heartbreaking moment, exquisitely accompanied by the Paramount Orchestra.
Taking nothing away from Nancy Carroll's great performance, my only beef is that Barbara Stanwyck was denied the chance to star in this film. She played the role on Broadway, and would have been dynamite in the picture.