William A. Brady

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William A. Brady
Brady 3775426888 2c8e3d0316.jpg
Brady circa 1910/1913.
Born(1863-06-19)June 19, 1863
DiedJanuary 6, 1950(1950-01-06) (aged 86)
Resting place Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Spouse(s)Rose Marie Rene (?–1896) (her death)
Grace George (1899–1950) (his death)
Children2, including Alice Brady

William Aloysius Brady (June 19, 1863 January 6, 1950) was an American theater actor, producer, and sports promoter. [1] [2]



Brady was born to a newspaperman in 1863. His father kidnapped him from San Francisco and brought him to New York City, where his father worked as a writer while William was forced to sell newspapers on street corners. Upon his father's death when William was 15, he hitchhiked his way back to San Francisco. [3]

He made his start on the stage in San Francisco, California, with a company headed by Joseph R. Grismer and Phoebe Davies [4] shortly after his return. As a callboy in The White Slave by Bartley Campbell, he filled in a role for an ill actor, and started his career.

After a failed attempt to produce a version of She by H. Rider Haggard, he was able to secure the rights to After Dark , successfully bringing the play to New York. While Brady was sued for his efforts, as Augustin Daly claimed plagiarism, Brady was able to make enough money to continue with his theater ventures. [5] Brady inadvertently became a boxing promoter during this time. He cast James J. Jeffries in After Dark, and later introduced the man into the boxing circuit, where Jeffries would eventually become the undisputed heavyweight champion. [5] Brady would be the only person to manage two undisputed heavyweight champions, in Jeffries and James J. Corbett. [2]

Brady produced The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight in 1897. Although Corbett ultimately lost, the match ran for over an hour and a half, and the documentary lasted that long, the longest film ever released at the time. In 1898 Brady and Grismer produced the hugely successful Charlotte Blair Parker play, Way Down East. The two remained partners until Grismer's retirement sometime around 1909. [4]

Other clients

In late 1896 Brady watched as young bicycle racer Major Taylor won his first profesional races, a half-mile exhibition and a six-day race at Madison Square Garden. [6] :51–52 Brady arranged to promote Taylor, who was a Black athlete facing serious obstacles in a racist time. Brady was known for using his tenacity and innovation to secure races for Taylor. [6] :51–52 For example, when southern cycling officials sought to ban Taylor from national competition, Brady built his own racetrack and started his own cycle race series for Taylor. [6] :51–52

Another Brady client was Black polar explorer Matthew Henson. [6] :250–251 Henson, denied the credit given to white Commander Peary, was financially destitute and physically unable to work, when Brady arranged a national lecture tour for him. [7] In a 1930 interview, a grateful Henson credited Brady for "taking care of" objections by Commander Peary; he said that Brady accepted no promoter's fee for the tour beyond "twenty-five dollars for cigar money." [7]


Brady ran a successful theatre operation for thirty years, having met actresses like Grace George (whom he later married) [5] and having, at one point, hired famous humorist Robert Benchley to complete ad copy for him. [8] Brady's success continued until the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which wiped out his entire savings. He was able to secure the funds to produce Street Scene , which was written by Elmer Rice, won the Pulitzer Prize, and netted Brady a half a million dollars. His total theatrical output included over 260 plays, including a version of Uncle Tom's Cabin that was later used as images for a book in 1904, [9] and a number of movies before his death.

Personal life

His first wife was Rose Marie Rene (died 1896). Their daughter was actress Mary Rose Brady, who used stage name of Alice Brady.

His second wife was the well known Broadway actress Grace George. They were married from 1899 until his death in 1950. They had a son, William A. Brady, Jr. (1900–1935) who married the actress Katherine Alexander.


Brady gravesite in Sleepy Hollow William A. Brady Gravesite.JPG
Brady gravesite in Sleepy Hollow

William A. Brady died at age 86 of a heart ailment. [10] He is interred at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.


He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998.

Selected filmography

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  1. "William A. Brady". Internet Broadway Database . Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  2. 1 2 "William A. Brady". International Boxing Hall of Fame . Retrieved 2011-01-14. ... Brady eventually left boxing and returned to producing plays. He also made millions in the stock market. Both Corbett and Jeffries, while champions, appeared in leading roles in his plays. Brady lost his fortune in the Wall Street crash of 1929, but regained his wealth a few years later when he produced the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play, Street Scene.
  3. American Heritage.
  4. 1 2 Browne, Walter & Koch, E. De Roy-Who's Who on the Stage, 1908; pg. 209-210 accessed July 5, 2012
  5. 1 2 3 American Heritage
  6. 1 2 3 4 Balf, Todd (2008). Major : a black athlete, a White era, and the fight to be the world's fastest human being (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers. pp. 51, 53, 101, 102, 250. ISBN   9780307236586.
  7. 1 2 Thomas, Lowell (2 April 1930). "FIRST AT THE POLE". Matthew A. Henson. Archived from the original on 13 June 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  8. Altman.
  9. R. F. Fenno book.
  10. "W. A. Brady, 86, Dies of Heart Ailment; Noted Showman's Wife, Grace George, Remains in Play Here After Being at Deathbed. Granddaughter In Cast. Theatrical Producer Managed Corbett and Jeffries. Was Father of Alice Brady". New York Times . January 5, 1950. Retrieved 2011-01-14. William A. Brady, the theatrical producer, died Friday afternoon at his home, 510 Park Avenue, of a heart ailment after a long period of failing health. He was 86 years old. His wife, Grace George, who is co-starring with Walter Hampden in "The Velvet Glove," at the ...

Further reading