Charles Frohman

Last updated

Charles Frohman
Charles Frohman c1914.png
Frohman in 1914
Born(1856-07-15)July 15, 1856
DiedMay 7, 1915(1915-05-07) (aged 58)
Occupation(s)Theatre manager and producer
Relatives Daniel Frohman (brother)
Gustave Frohman (brother)
Philip H. Frohman (nephew)

Charles Frohman (July 15, 1856 – May 7, 1915) was an American theater manager and producer, who discovered and promoted many stars of the American stage. Frohman produced over 700 shows, and among his biggest hit was Peter Pan , both in London and the US.

Contents

In 1896, Frohman co-founded the Theatrical Syndicate, a nationwide chain of theaters that dominated the American touring company business for more than two decades until the Shubert brothers grew strong enough to end its virtual monopoly. He partnered with English producers, including Seymour Hicks, with whom he produced a string of London hits prior to 1910, such as Quality Street , The Admirable Crichton , The Catch of the Season , The Beauty of Bath , and A Waltz Dream .

At the height of his fame, Frohman died in the 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania.

Life and career

Charles Frohman was born to a Jewish family [1] in Sandusky, Ohio, the youngest of three Frohman brothers, including Daniel and Gustave. The year of his birth date is generally erroneously reported as 1860, and his birthday is shown as July 16 on his tombstone, but the correct date is July 15, 1856. [2] In 1864, Frohman's family moved to New York City. At the age of twelve, Frohman started to work at night in the office of the New York Tribune , attending school by day. In 1874, he began work for the Daily Graphic and at night sold tickets at Hooley's Theatre, Brooklyn. In 1877, he took charge of the Chicago Comedy Co., with John Dillon as star in Our Boys. He next joined Haverly's United Mastodon Minstrels as manager, touring the U.S. and Europe. Then for a time he was associated with his brothers Daniel and Gustave in managing the Madison Square Theatre, New York. [3] He began to produce plays by 1886. [4]

Charles Frohman presents Miss Maude Adams in The Little Minister, by J. M. Barrie Maude Adams in The Little Minister.jpg
Charles Frohman presents Miss Maude Adams in The Little Minister, by J. M. Barrie
The Outcast (1917) The Outcast.jpg
The Outcast (1917)

Frohman's first success as a producer was with Bronson Howard's play Shenandoah (1889). Frohman founded the Empire Theatre Stock Company to acquire his first Broadway theatre, the Empire, in 1892. The following year, he produced his first Broadway play, Clyde Fitch's Masked Ball. In this piece, Maude Adams first played opposite John Drew, which led to many future successes. Soon Frohman acquired five other New York City theaters, including the Garrick and Criterion Theatres. Working with William Harris and Isaac B. Rich, he became part owner of their theatres in Boston (the Columbia Theatre, Park, Hollis Street, Colonial, Boston and Tremont). [5] In 1895, he produced the New York premiere of The Importance of Being Earnest , by Oscar Wilde. The same year, he produced The Shop Girl . [4]

Frohman was known for his ability to develop talent. His stars included William Gillette, John Drew, Jr., Ethel Barrymore, Billie Burke, E. H. Sothern, Julia Marlowe, Maude Adams, Paul Gilmore, Evelyn Millard, Henry Miller and Walter E. Perkins. In 1896, Frohman, Al Hayman, Abe Erlanger, Mark Klaw, Samuel F. Nixon, and Fred Zimmerman formed the Theatrical Syndicate. Their organization established systemized booking networks throughout the United States and created a monopoly that controlled every aspect of contracts and bookings until the late 1910s, when the Shubert brothers broke their stranglehold on the industry.

In 1897, Frohman leased the Duke of York's Theatre in London, introducing plays there as well as in the United States. Clyde Fitch, J. M. Barrie and Edmond Rostand were among the playwrights he promoted. As a producer, among Frohman's most famous successes was Barrie's Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up , which he premiered at the Duke of York's in December 1904 starring Nina Boucicault, and produced in January 1905 in the U.S. starring Maude Adams. In the early years of the 20th century, Frohman also established a successful partnership with English actor-producer Seymour Hicks to produce musicals and other comedies in London, including Quality Street in 1902, The Admirable Crichton in 1903, The Catch of the Season in 1904, The Beauty of Bath in 1906, The Gay Gordons in 1907, and A Waltz Dream in 1908, among others. He also partnered with other London theatre managers. The system of exchange of successful plays between London and New York was effected largely as a result of his efforts. In 1910, Frohman attempted a repertory scheme of producing plays at the Duke of York's. He advertised a bill of plays by J. M. Barrie, John Galsworthy, Harley Granville Barker, and others. The venture began tentatively, and while it might have proved successful, Frohman canceled the scheme when London theatres closed at the death of King Edward VII in May 1910.

Other Frohman hits included The Dollar Princess (1909), The Arcadians (1910), The Sunshine Girl (1913) and The Girl From Utah (1914). [4] By 1915, Frohman had produced more than 700 shows, employed an average of 10,000 people per season, 700 of them actors, and paid salaries totaling $35 million a year (the equivalent of more than $700 million in 2010 dollars). [6] Frohman controlled five theaters in London, six in New York City, and over two hundred throughout the rest of the United States. His longtime live-in companion, theatre critic Charles Dillingham, also became a well-known producer. [4]

Death on the RMS Lusitania

Frohman (center, right) as co-proprietor of the Callender Minstrels, 1883 Charles Frohman of the Callender Minstrels, 1883.jpg
Frohman (center, right) as co-proprietor of the Callender Minstrels, 1883

Frohman made his annual trip to Europe in May 1915 to oversee his London and Paris "play markets", sailing on the Cunard Line's RMS Lusitania. Songwriter Jerome Kern was meant to accompany him on the voyage, but overslept after being kept up late playing requests at a party. [7] William Gillette was also to have accompanied him, but was forced to fulfill a contracted appearance in Philadelphia. [8]

Frohman's rheumatic knee, from a fall three years earlier, had been ailing for most of the voyage, but he was feeling better on the morning of May 7, a bright, sunny day. He entertained guests in his suite and later at his table. He was regaling them with tales of his life in the theater when, at 2:10 in the afternoon, within fourteen miles of the Old Head of Kinsale, with the coast of Ireland in sight, a torpedo from the German U-boat U-20 struck the Lusitania on the starboard side. Within a minute, there was a second explosion, followed by several smaller ones. [9]

As passengers began to panic, Frohman stood on the promenade deck, chatting with friends and smoking a cigar. He calmly remarked, "This is going to be a close call." [10] Frohman, with a disabled leg and walking with a cane, could not have jumped from the deck into a lifeboat, so he was trapped. Instead, he and millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt tied lifejackets to "Moses baskets" containing infants who had been asleep in the nursery when the torpedo struck. Frohman then went out onto the deck, where he was joined by actress Rita Jolivet, her brother-in-law George Vernon and Captain Alick Scott. In the final moments, they clasped hands and Frohman paraphrased his greatest hit, Peter Pan : "Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure that life gives us." Jolivet, the only survivor of Frohman's party, was standing with Frohman as the ship sank. She later said, "with a tremendous roar a great wave swept along the deck. We were all divided in a moment, and I have not seen any of those brave men alive since." [11]

At his death, Frohman was 58. His body later washed ashore below the Old Head of Kinsale, and lay among 147 others awaiting identification, where a rescued American identified him from newspaper photographs. His body, alone among all the others, was not disfigured. It was determined that he was killed by a heavy object falling on him, rather than by drowning. [12] His funeral service was held on May 25 at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, and he was buried in the Union Field Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. [13] Services were also arranged by some of his stars in other American cities: by Maude Adams in Los Angeles, by John Drew in San Francisco, by Billie Burke in Tacoma, and by Donald Brian, Joseph Cawthorn and Julia Sanderson in Providence, as well as memorial services at both St Paul's Cathedral and the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. Frohman was also eulogized by the French Academy of Authors in Paris. [14]

A memorial to Frohman is located on The Causeway at Marlow on Thames. The memorial, by the artist Leonard Stanford Merrifield, features a drinking fountain with a sculptured nymph and inscription. [15] [16]

Portrayals in films, television and stage

Frohman was portrayed by Edwin Maxwell in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and by Harry Hayden in the film Till the Clouds Roll By (1946). He was played by William Hootkins in the BBC mini-series The Lost Boys in 1978. He was portrayed by Nehemiah Persoff in Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women also in 1978 on television. In the 1980 film Somewhere in Time , the character William Fawcett Robinson, played by Christopher Plummer, was based on Frohman. [17] In 2004, Dustin Hoffman portrayed him in the film Finding Neverland , while Kelsey Grammer played him in the musical of the same name on Broadway in 2015.

Notes

  1. Klawans, Stuart. "Finding an Audience: Years of Invisibility", The Forward , April 9, 2004, accessed December 19, 2015
  2. Certified Birth Certificate, Sandusky, Ohio; and the 1860 Federal Census for Sandusky, Ohio, which shows: "Charley", age 4
  3. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Frohman, Charles"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Kenrick, John. "Who's Who in Musicals: Additional Bios XI". Musicals101.com, 2004, accessed May 17, 2010
  5. Marcosson and Frohman (1916) [ page needed ]
  6. Zecher, p. 169.
  7. Denison, pp. 21–22; and McLean, p. 98
  8. Zecher, p. 442; Philadelphia Inquirer, "The Call Boy's Chat," February 7, 1930, Theatres, Music, Radio, Radio Programs Section, p. TH1.
  9. The distance of the sinking from the Old Head of Kinsale varies among sources, ranging from 8 to 14 miles; the most reliable figure may be the 14 miles noted by Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger in his log. The second explosion had long been attributed to explosive munitions ignited by the torpedo, but shipwreck explorer Robert Ballard attributed the second major explosion to exploding coal dust. See Ballard, Robert. Exploring the Lusitania (Warner/Madison Press Book, 1995), p. 195. Diana Preston attributed it to exploding steam lines. See Preston, Diana, Lusitania, An Epic Tragedy (Walker & Company, 2002), p. 453.
  10. Frohman and Marcosson, p. 386; Preston, p. 204; "Frohman, Charles". The Lusitania Resource; Zecher, p. 462.
  11. Ellis, Frederick D. The Tragedy of the Lusitania (National Publishing Company, 1915), pp. 38–39; Preston, p. 204; "Frohman Calm; Not Concerned About Death, Welcomed It as Beautiful Adventure, He Told Friends at End," New York Tribune, May 11, 1915, p. 3; Frohman and Marcosson, p. 387; Frohman, Charles. The Lusitania Resource"
  12. Frohman and Marcosson, p. 387; Survivor discovering Frohman's body quoted in Hoehling, Adolph A., The Last Voyage of the Lusitania (Random House Value Publishing, 1991), pp. 217–18; Ramsey, David, Lusitania, Saga and Myth (W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), pp. 96–97; New York American, May 9, 1915, p. 1; New York Press, "Finds Frohman's Body", May 9, 1915, p. 5; "Charles Frohman". The Lusitania Resource; Zecher, p. 443.
  13. New York Tribune, "Frohman Burial Plans, Two Funeral Services May 25; 8 Pallbearers Named," May 14, 1915, p. 5; pallbearers -- primary and honorary -- included Otis Skinner, William Gillette, Henry Miller, E. H. Sothern, William Faversham, John Barrymore, Augustus Thomas, Edward Sheldon, Henry Arthur Jones, Paul M. Potter, George Ade and Harry Leon Wilson. See Zecher, p. 443, 676.
  14. Frohman and Marcosson, pp. 389-90
  15. Eliot, Jane. "The Nymph That Mourns a Famous American" Archived 2011-08-27 at the Wayback Machine . Straightforward article showcase, accessed August 7, 2011
  16. "War Memorials Register: C Frohman". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  17. Bradley, Matthew R. "Richard Matheson – Storyteller: Signs o' the Time", Tor.com, December 21, 2010, accessed January 14, 2015

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Gillette</span> American manager and playwright

William Hooker Gillette was an American actor-manager, playwright, and stage-manager in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage and in a 1916 silent film.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ethel Barrymore</span> American actress (1879–1959)

Ethel Barrymore was an American actress and a member of the Barrymore family of actors. Barrymore was a stage, screen and radio actress whose career spanned six decades, and was regarded as "The First Lady of the American Theatre". She received four nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, winning for None but the Lonely Heart (1944).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maude Adams</span> American actress and stage designer (1872–1953)

Maude Ewing Adams Kiskadden, known professionally as Maude Adams, was an American actress and stage designer who achieved her greatest success as the character Peter Pan, first playing the role in the 1905 Broadway production of Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. Adams' personality appealed to a large audience and helped her become the most successful and highest-paid performer of her day, with a yearly income of more than $1 million during her peak.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daniel Frohman</span> American film producer (1851–1940)

Daniel Frohman was an American theatrical producer and manager, and an early film producer.

Starting in 1896, the Theatrical Syndicate was an organization in the United States that controlled the majority of bookings in the country's leading theatrical attractions. The six-man group was in charge of theatres and bookings. The Syndicate's power would peak in 1907.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marc Klaw</span> American lawyer and theatrical producer (1858–1936)

Marc Klaw, was an American lawyer, theatrical producer, theater owner, and a leading figure of the Theatrical Syndicate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">A. L. Erlanger</span> American theater manager (1859–1930)

Abraham Lincoln Erlanger was an American theatrical producer, director, designer, theater owner, and a leading figure of the Theatrical Syndicate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marie Doro</span> American Actress

Marie Doro was an American stage and film actress of the early silent film era.

The Frohman brothers were American theatre owners, including on Broadway, and theatrical producers who also owned and operated motion picture production companies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Dillingham</span> American theatre producer

Charles Bancroft Dillingham was an American theatre manager and producer of over 200 Broadway shows.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lyceum Theatre (Broadway)</span> Broadway theater in Manhattan, New York

The Lyceum Theatre is a Broadway theater at 149 West 45th Street, between Seventh Avenue and Sixth Avenue, in the Theater District of Midtown Manhattan in New York City. Opened in 1903, the Lyceum Theatre is one of the oldest surviving Broadway venues, as well as the oldest continuously operating legitimate theater in New York City. The theater was designed by Herts & Tallant in the Beaux-Arts style and was built for impresario Daniel Frohman. It has 922 seats across three levels and is operated by The Shubert Organization. The facade became a New York City designated landmark in 1974, and the lobby and auditorium interiors were similarly designated in 1987.

Al Hayman, also known as Raphael Hayman, was the business partner of the better-known Charles Frohman who together with others established the Theatrical Syndicate. In addition to the financial backing, ownership and construction of new theaters and the early monopolisation of the booking networks, the Syndicate also produced a number of Broadway shows.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rita Jolivet</span> American–British actress

Marguerite Lucile Jolivet, known professionally as Rita Jolivet, was a British actress in theatre and silent films in the early 20th century. She was known in private life as the Countess Marguerita de Cippico.

<i>What Every Woman Knows</i> (play) 1908 play by J. M. Barrie

What Every Woman Knows is a four-act play written by J. M. Barrie. It was first presented by impresario Charles Frohman at the Duke of York's Theatre in London on 3 September 1908. It ran for 384 performances, transferring to the Hicks Theatre between 21 December 1908 and 15 February 1909.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manuel Klein</span>

Manuel Joachim Klein was an English-born composer of musical theatre and incidental music who worked primarily in New York City.

<i>Sherlock Holmes</i> (play) Four-act play by William Gillette & Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is a four-act play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, based on Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes. After three previews it premiered on Broadway November 6, 1899, at the Garrick Theatre in New York City.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Madison Square Theatre</span>

The Madison Square Theatre was a Broadway theatre in Manhattan, on the south side of 24th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway. It was built in 1863, operated as a theater from 1865 to 1908, and demolished in 1908 to make way for an office building. The Madison Square Theatre was the scene of important developments in stage technology, theatre design, and theatrical tour management. For about half its history it had other names including the Fifth Avenue Theatre, Daly's Fifth Avenue Theatre, Hoyt's Madison Square Theatre, and Hoyt's Theatre.

<i>Everyman</i> (1901 play)

Everyman is a modern play produced by Charles Frohman and directed by Ben Greet that is based on the medieval morality play of the same name. The modern play was first performed in 1901 on tour in Britain. It opened in the United States in 1902 on Broadway, where it ran for 75 performances, followed by tours over the next several years that included four Broadway revivals.

<i>Maggie Pepper</i> 1919 film by Chester Withey

Maggie Pepper is a lost 1919 American silent comedy-drama film directed by Chester Withey and starring Ethel Clayton. This film is based on a hit 1911 play by Charles Klein which was a winning success for stage actress Rose Stahl at the Harris Theatre.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Klaw and Erlanger</span> American entertainment management and production partnership (1888–1919)

Klaw and Erlanger was an entertainment management and production partnership of Marc Klaw and Abraham Lincoln Erlanger based in New York City from 1888 through 1919. While running their own considerable and multi-faceted theatrical businesses on Broadway, they were key figures in the Theatrical Syndicate, the lucrative booking monopoly for first-class legitimate theaters nationwide.

References

Further reading

Listen to this article (10 minutes)
Sound-icon.svg
This audio file was created from a revision of this article dated 26 July 2019 (2019-07-26), and does not reflect subsequent edits.