David Belasco

David Belasco (bəlăs´kō), 1853–1931, American theatrical manager and producer, b. San Francisco. He was actively connected with the theater from his youth, and while associated with Dion Boucicault in Virginia City, Nev., he was first exposed to scenic realism. At 19 he became stage manager of the Baldwin Theatre in San Francisco. His first venture as a playwright was when, in 1880, in association with James A. Herne, he toured the country in Hearts of Oak, a play adapted by them from an old melodrama. Connections with the Frohmans brought him to New York City in association (1882–84) with the Madison Square Theatre and later (1886–90) as stage manager of the Lyceum. He became an independent producer in 1895. Known for his minutely detailed and spectacular stage settings, Belasco showed inventiveness in his use of stage lighting. A creator of stars, he was lucratively associated with Mrs. Leslie Carter, David Warfield, Blanche Bates, Frances Starr, Ina Claire, and Lenore Ulric. His plays, mostly adaptations, were vehicles for his actors and for his lavish settings. His most successful writing combinations were with Herne, Franklyn Fyles, Henry C. De Mille, and John Luther Long. In 1907 he built the Stuyvesant Theater, later known as the Belasco, during his fight against the Theatrical Syndicate of the 1890s. The New York Public Library has his collection of theatrical materials. He wrote The Theatre through Its Stage Door (1919, repr. 1969).

See his plays, ed. by R. H. Ball (1940, repr. 1965); biography by W. Winter (2 vol., 3d ed. 1925, repr. 1972).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Bishop of Broadway: the Life & Work of David Belasco
Craig Timberlake.
Library Publishers, 1954
The Heart of Maryland and Other Plays
David Belasco; Glenn Hughes; George Savage.
Princeton University Press, 1941
FREE! Modern American Plays: Collected with Introduction by George P. Baker
George P. Baker.
Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920
Librarian’s tip: "The Return of Peter Grimm: A Play in Three Acts" by David Belasco begins on p. 101
The Plays of Henry C. de Mille
David Belasco; Robert Hamilton Ball; Henry C. de Mille.
Princeton University Press, 1941
Directors on Directing: A Source Book of the Modern Theater
Toby Cole; Helen Krich Chinoy.
Bobbs-Merrill, 1963 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: "David Belasco" begins on p. 125
These Things Are Mine: The Autobiography of a Journeyman Playwright
George Middleton.
The Macmillan Company, 1947
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XXI "David Belasco: The Last of His Line: E. H. Sothern and Ina Claire"
Theatre U.S.A., 1665 to 1957
Barnard Hewitt.
McGraw-Hill, 1959
Librarian’s tip: "Realism, A La Belasco" begins on p. 270
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