Belasco, David, 1853-1931

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1853-07-25
Death 1931-05-15
US
English

Biographical notes:

American theatrical producer and playwright.

From the description of Letter : to Luther Price, 1906 Apr. 2. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122494221

American theatrical producer, impresario, director and playwright.

From the description of David Belasco letter, 1905 Aug. 25. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 709924141

From the description of David Belasco letter, 1929 Oct. 30. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 709926139

From the description of David Belasco letter, 1925 Oct. 19. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 709794409

Actor, manager, playwright, director, producer, and theater owner, Belasco was one of the outstanding personalities of the American theater at the turn of the century. He is most notable for his exotic stage productions, famous for their lavishness and scenic realism and his discovery and training of actors such as Mrs. Leslie Carter, Blanche Bates, David Warfield, and Frances Starr. He made good use of the mechanical inventions of his time including innovations in the use of lighting, was involved in the fight against Klew and Erlanger, the Theatrical Syndicate, and wrote plays of his own, mostly collaborations and adaptations of sentimental melodrama. Some of his best known productions were THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME (1893), THE HEART OF MARYLAND (1895), ZAZA (1898), MADAME BUTTERFLY (1900), THE AUCTIONEER (1901), THE MUSIC MASTER (1904), ADREA (1905), THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1905), A GRAND ARMY MAN (1907), and THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM (1911).

From the description of David Belasco papers, 1868-1967. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122687127

Alfred Grunwald was born in Vienna, Austria, on February 16, 1884. He worked for a theatrical agency before turning to libretto writing. He came to the United States in 1940 after several years' residence in France. During World War II he was employed for a time with the Office of War Information translating American songs for transmission by radio to Germany Alfred Grunwald collaborated with such composers as Franz Lahar and Emmerich Kalman, successfully adding a modern social slant to the traditional operetta formula. A number of Grunwald’s librettos were produced on Broadway. These included Countess Maritza (1926), The Yankee Princess (1922), The Circus Princess (1927), and The Duchess of Chicago (1929). He also wrote a number of comedies, including Dancing Partner (1930), written in collaboration with Alexander Engel and produced on Broadway by David Belasco. Besides writing over 40 operetta librettos, Alfred Grunwald also wrote non-musical plays, short stories, and newspaper articles, and was the theater critic for the Neue Wiener Journal . He was a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Alfred Grunwald died in New York on February 24, 1951.

From the guide to the Alfred Grunwald papers, 1907-2004, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

David Belasco's drama, Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan, based on the story by John Luther Long, premiered at the Herald Square Theatre, New York, on March 5, 1900; the play opened in London at the Duke of York's Theatre on April 28, 1900.

From the description of Madame Butterfly : a tragedy of Japan, [ca. 1900?]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81985075

From the description of Madame Butterfly : a tragedy of Japan, [ca. 1900?]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702152832

American author.

From the description of Letter, 1881. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78116138

American director and playwright of Portuguese Jewish origin.

From the description of Autograph sentiment signed, dated : [n.p., n.d], [n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270873158

Actor-manager, playwright, director, producer and theater owner, David Belasco was one of the outstanding personalities of the American theater. Born in San Francisco on July 25, 1853, to Portuguese-Jewish parents who had emigrated from England, Belasco, whose father had been on the London stage, began acting as a child. He was a call boy and then stage manager in San Francisco before moving to New York in 1882 to manage the Madison Square Theatre under Daniel Frohman. Seeking greater freedom, he left that theater and was a freelance playwright and director before becoming stage manager, again under Daniel Frohman, at the Lyceum Theatre in 1887. In 1890 he left to again work independently, staging a number of his own plays, mainly collaborations. The most successful of these were THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND ME (1893), THE HEART OF MARYLAND (1895), ZAZA (1898), and MADAME BUTTERFLY (1900). In 1901 he began his association with the actor David Warfield in Charles Klein's THE AUCTIONEER . In 1902 he opened the first Belasco Theatre, which had opened as the Republic in 1900, and where several of his most famous plays were first seen including Klein's THE MUSIC MASTER (1904), ADREA (1905), and THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1905). His success enabled him to build a new theater which opened in 1907 as the Stuyvesant Theater with Warfield in A GRAND ARMY MAN and was renamed the Belasco in 1910 (the earlier Belasco Theatre reverted to its original name). It was here that he staged THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM (1911), considered by many his finest work. He remained at the Belasco until his death on May 14, 1931.

Belasco's greatest contributions to the American stage were his elaborate, realistic scenic displays using the latest mechanical inventions and experiments in the use of lighting, his discovery and launching of a number of the stars of his day including Mrs. Leslie Carter, Blanche Bates, David Warfield and Frances Starr, and his participation in the ultimately successful fight against the Theatrical Syndicate, Klaw-Erlanger, which was strangling theater in the United States. He continued the tradition of importing plays from Europe rather than encouraging new American dramatists. His own plays, mostly melodramas, were primarily adaptations and dramatizations of earlier works; he was sued for plagiarism a number of times, but always won. His last two decades saw his influence decline, eclipsed by the rise of a new generation of American playwrights such as Eugene O'Neill, and a new kind of theater. But Belasco had brought a fresh realism to theater production and was the most successful man of the theater in turn-of-the-century America where spectacular and emotionally wrenching melodramas were in vogue.

Belasco was married to Cecilia Loverich from 1873 until her death in 1925. They had two daughters, Reina, who married theatrical producer Morris Gest, and Augusta, who predeceased her parents.

From the guide to the David Belasco papers, 1868-1967, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)



Biographical notes are generated from the bibliographic and archival source records supplied by data contributors.

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Subjects:

  • Performing arts
  • Librettists -- United States
  • Playbills
  • Theater--Production and direction
  • Drama
  • Stage props
  • Theater -- Production and direction
  • Theater critics -- Austria -- Vienna
  • Librettists -- Austria
  • Dramatists, Austrian
  • Authors, American--Correspondence
  • Stage lighting
  • Operetta -- Librettos
  • Operetta -- Production and direction

Occupations:

  • Dramatists
  • Jewish dramatists--United States.
  • Librettists
  • Theater critics

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)