Belasco, David

Belasco, David

(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 CarterCarter, Mrs. Leslie,
1862–1937, American actress, b. Lexington, Ky., whose maiden name was Caroline Louise Dudley. She became a protégée of Belasco and first appeared in 1890 in The Ugly Duckling.
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, 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 LongLong, John Luther,
1861–1927, American playwright, b. Hanover, Pa. In 1900, in collaboration with David Belasco, he dramatized his short story "Madame Butterfly" (1897), which Puccini later made (1906) into an opera.
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. 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).

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Belasco, David (b. Valasco or Velasco)

(1859–1931) actor, manager, playwright; born in San Francisco. Offspring of a Portuguese-Jewish family, he appeared on stage as a child. His earliest successes as a stage manager in the 1880s were with melodramas in both New York and California. He built a reputation for total theatricality, including highly flamboyant performances in his private life. One of his great interests was in extreme realism on stage, and he used the newest technology to this end. Among his successes were The Heart of Maryland (1895), in which Maurice Barrymore performed, The Music Master (1904), starring David Warfield, and The Governor's Lady (1912), which included a careful onstage representation of Child's restaurant. In 1906 he built a new theater in New York, first called the Stuyvesant, then renamed the Belasco in 1910. The New York Public Library at Lincoln Center houses his extensive theater collection.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.