New York City

Charles Frohman

Charles Frohman (portrait)

Charles Frohman (last photograph)

Charles Frohman (last photograph)

Charles Frohman was was arguably the greatest theater producer of all time and is credited for creating the Broadway star system. Among the most notable plays that he produced was James Barrie’s Peter Pan. Frohman often chose which actors he would use first, then selected a play that would showcase his stars’ abilities.  Among Frohman’s principle American stars were Edna MayMarie Doro, John Drew, Ethel Barrymore, and Nat Goodwin.  He spent hours selecting costumes, coached actors in their parts, advised them as to which hotel to choose, and often sent gifts of books, flowers, and candy.  In twenty-five years, only one actress dared to challenge him, Mrs. Patrick Campbell.  When she rejected Charley’s criticisms of her acting in saying that she was an artiste, Frohman answered, “Madam, your secret is safe with me.” He died at 58 when a German submarine U-20 torpedoed Lusitania on 7 May 1915, while he was aboard.

Further Reading on Charles Frohman:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/26146/26146-h/26146-h.htm

David Belasco (1908)

David Belasco (1908)

Born in San Francisco,California where his Jewsish parents had moved from London, England, during the California Gold Rush, he began working in a San Francisco theater. During his long creative career, stretching between 1884 and 1930. He worked as stage manager for the Madison Square Theatre, and then the old Lyceum Theatre while writing plays Belasco either wrote, directed, or produced more than 100 Broadway plays including Hearts of Oak, The Heart of Maryland, and Du Barry, making him the most powerful personality on the New York city theater scene. Belasco was informally known in the theatrical community as "the Bishop of Broadway," due to his penchant for dressing in black clothing and clerical collar, which made him resemble a priest; that he was of the Jewish faith was puzzling at very least. He was even meantioned in F.Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" in Chapter 3, where Nick encounters the "Owl Eyed Man" who says of Gatsby "This fella's a regular Belasco.

Further reading on David Belasco:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/59144/David-Belasco

Antonio “Tony” Pastor is regarded as the “Father of Vaudeville.” He was born in New York City in 1832. He began as a child singer and minstrel in dime museums, he also worked as a circus ringmaster, before securing a regular work at a music hall located at 444 Broadway (between Grand & Howard Sts.), just after the Civil War broke out in 1861. He sang many patriotic songs in support of the war, as well as sentimental and humorous tunes about labor, a subject near and dear to the hearts of his working class. A devout Catholic, he would eventually have a prayer room built in his theatre, and a poor box installed in the lobby. Pastor was a founding member of what was to become the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the fraternity that Drouet was a member of. He made the leap to the Rialto (theater strip on 14th street) in 1881, with a theater in Tammany Hall, right on Union Square. In chapter 30 of Sister Carrie, Hurstwood refers to his influence with Tammany Hall, which was the headquarters of a democratic political party: "He did, however, gain considerable knowledge by talking, for he discovered the influence of Tammany Hall and the value of standing in with the police." He failed at producing full-length musical theatre parodies of Gilbert and Sullivan shows so he settled down to concentrate on his great contribution to American popular culture: straight, clean variety shows. He was to flourish at this one location with one of New York’s most beloved institutions until he passed away in 1908.

 

Further reading on Tony Pastor:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/446042/Tony-Pastor

Further reading on the Order of Elks:

http://www.elks.org/history/NewsStory.cfm?StoryID=71664

Edna May (Postcard)

Edna May (Postcard)

By the age of 7, she had joined a children's opera company and performed Gilbert and Sullivan productions in Syracuse. She studied music at the New York Conservatoire as a teenager. She became a considerable actress and singer by 1867, and became known as "The Belle of New York," when she took up the role that launched her career on the production by the same name, which debuted at the famouse, Casino Theater. A popular postcard beauty, May was famous for her leading roles in Edwardian musical comedies. Among others, she played Gabrielle Dalmonte in An American Beauty in London (1900), Olga in The Girl from Up There (1901) in New York and then London, Alesia in La Poupée (1904) in London, and Angela in The Catch of the Season (1905) in New York. The Belle of Mayfair followed in London in 1906. Charles Frohman produced both, The Catch of the Season and The Belle of Mayfair, he would go on to use Edna May in many more productions. She died at the age of 69 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

For further reading and audio of Edna May singing:

http://ednamay.net/biography-edna.html

Charles Ellsworth Grapewin ran away from home to be a circus acrobat which led him to work as an aerialist andtrapeze artist in a traveling circus before turning to acting. He traveled all over the world with the famous P. T. Barnum circus. Interestingly, Grapewin also appeared in the original 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz, 35 years before he would appear in the famous MGM film version. He later became a silent film actor, one of his most notable roles was in, "Above The Limit," which this picture was taken for a newspaper promotional article. He died February 3rd, 1956. 

Here is his obituary published in the New York Times:

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=9E00E1D8123EE333A05750C0A9649C946792D6CF

New York City