Irving Berlin was an American composer and lyricist, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. His music forms a part of the Great American Songbook. Born in Imperial Russia, Berlin arrived in the United States at the age of five. He published his first song, Marie from Sunny Italy, in 1907, receiving 33 cents for the publishing rights and he also was an owner of the Music Box Theatre on Broadway. Alexanders Ragtime Band sparked a dance craze in places as far away as Berlins native Russia. In doing so, said Walter Cronkite, at Berlins 100th birthday tribute, he helped write the story of country, capturing the best of who we are. He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which him a legend before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including Easter Parade, White Christmas, Happy Holiday, This Is the Army, Mr. Jones, and Theres No Business Like Show Business. His Broadway musical and 1942 film, This is the Army, Celine Dion recorded it as a tribute, making it no.1 on the charts after the September 11 attacks in 2001. In 2015, pianist and composer Hershey Felder began touring nationwide as a show, portraying Berlin. Composer George Gershwin called him the greatest songwriter that has ever lived, Berlin was born on May 11,1888, in Tolochin, Russian Empire. He was one of eight children of Moses and Lena Lipkin Beilin and his father, a cantor in a synagogue, uprooted the family to America, as did many other Jewish families in the late 19th century. In 1893 they settled in New York City, as of the 1900 census, the name Beilin had changed to Baline. By daylight the house was in ashes, as an adult, Berlin said he was unaware of being raised in abject poverty since he knew no other life. Tsar Alexander III of Russia and then Tsar Nicholas II, his son, had revived with utmost brutality the anti-Jewish pogroms, which created the spontaneous mass exodus to America. When they reached Ellis Island, Israel was put in a pen with his brother and his Yiddish-speaking family eventually settled on Cherry Street, a windowless cold-water basement flat in the Theater District of the Lower East Side. His father, unable to find work as a cantor in New York, took a job at a kosher meat market and gave Hebrew lessons on the side
Moss Hart was an American playwright and theatre director. Hart was born in New York City and grew up in poverty with his English-born Jewish immigrant parents in the Bronx and in Sea Gate. Early on he had a relationship with his Aunt Kate. She piqued his interest in the theater and took him to see performances often, Hart even went so far as to create an alternate ending to her life in his book Act One. He writes that she died while he was working on out-of-town tryouts for The Beloved Bandit, later, Kate became eccentric and then disturbed, vandalizing Harts home, writing threatening letters and setting fires backstage during rehearsals for Jubilee. But his relationship with her was formative and he learned that the theater made possible the art of being somebody else… not a scrawny boy with bad teeth, a funny name… and a mother who was a distant drudge. The play was written in collaboration with Broadway veteran George S. Kaufman, during the next decade, Kaufman and Hart teamed on a string of successes, including You Cant Take It with You and The Man Who Came to Dinner. Though Kaufman had hits with others, Hart is generally conceded to be his most important collaborator and you Cant Take It With You, the story of an eccentric family and how they live during the Depression, won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for drama. When director Frank Capra and writer Robert Riskin adapted it for the screen in 1938, the Man Who Came To Dinner is about the caustic Sheridan Whiteside who, after injuring himself slipping on ice, must stay in a Midwestern familys house. The character was based on Kaufman and Harts friend, critic Alexander Woollcott, other characters in the play are based on Noël Coward, Harpo Marx and Gertrude Lawrence. However, he became best known during this period as a director, among the Broadway hits he staged were Junior Miss, Dear Ruth and Anniversary Waltz. By far his biggest hit was the musical My Fair Lady, adapted from George Bernard Shaws Pygmalion, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, the show ran over seven years and won a Tony Award for Best Musical. Hart picked up the Tony for Best Director, Hart also wrote some screenplays, including Gentlemans Agreement – for which he received an Oscar nomination – Hans Christian Andersen and A Star Is Born. He wrote a memoir, Act One, An Autobiography by Moss Hart and it was adapted to film in 1963, with George Hamilton portraying Hart. The last show Hart directed was the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot, during a troubled out-of-town tryout, Hart had a heart attack. The show opened before he recovered, but he and Lerner reworked it after the opening. That, along with huge pre-sales and a cast performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, in 1972,11 years after his death, Moss Hart was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. He was one of 23 people to be selected into the Hall of Fames first ever induction class that year, Hart married Kitty Carlisle on August 10,1946, they had two children
Along with Londons West End theatres, Broadway theatres are widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world. The Theater District is a popular tourist attraction in New York City, the great majority of Broadway shows are musicals. They presented Shakespeare plays and ballad operas such as The Beggars Opera, in 1752, William Hallam sent a company of twelve actors from Britain to the colonies with his brother Lewis as their manager. They established a theatre in Williamsburg, Virginia and opened with The Merchant of Venice, the company moved to New York in the summer of 1753, performing ballad operas and ballad-farces like Damon and Phillida. The Revolutionary War suspended theatre in New York, but thereafter theatre resumed in 1798, the Bowery Theatre opened in 1826, followed by others. Blackface minstrel shows, a distinctly American form of entertainment, became popular in the 1830s, by the 1840s, P. T. Barnum was operating an entertainment complex in lower Manhattan. In 1829, at Broadway and Prince Street, Niblos Garden opened, the 3, 000-seat theatre presented all sorts of musical and non-musical entertainments. In 1844, Palmos Opera House opened and presented opera for four seasons before bankruptcy led to its rebranding as a venue for plays under the name Burtons Theatre. The Astor Opera House opened in 1847, booth played the role for a famous 100 consecutive performances at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1865, and would later revive the role at his own Booths Theatre. Other renowned Shakespeareans who appeared in New York in this era were Henry Irving, Tommaso Salvini, Fanny Davenport, lydia Thompson came to America in 1868 heading a small theatrical troupe, adapting popular English burlesques for middle-class New York audiences. Thompsons troupe called the British Blondes, was the most popular entertainment in New York during the 1868–1869 theatrical season, the six-month tour ran for almost six extremely profitable years. Theatre in New York moved from downtown gradually to midtown beginning around 1850, in 1870, the heart of Broadway was in Union Square, and by the end of the century, many theatres were near Madison Square. Broadways first long-run musical was a 50-performance hit called The Elves in 1857, New York runs continued to lag far behind those in London, but Laura Keenes musical burletta The Seven Sisters shattered previous New York records with a run of 253 performances. It was at a performance by Keenes troupe of Our American Cousin in Washington, the production was a staggering five-and-a-half hours long, but despite its length, it ran for a record-breaking 474 performances. The same year, The Black Domino/Between You, Me and the Post was the first show to call itself a musical comedy, Tony Pastor opened the first vaudeville theatre one block east of Union Square in 1881, where Lillian Russell performed. Comedians Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart produced and starred in musicals on Broadway between 1878 and 1890, with book and lyrics by Harrigan and music by his father-in-law David Braham. They starred high quality singers, instead of the women of repute who had starred in earlier musical forms. Plays could run longer and still draw in the audiences, leading to better profits, as in England, during the latter half of the century, the theatre began to be cleaned up, with less prostitution hindering the attendance of the theatre by women
A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches. The revue has its roots in 19th century popular entertainment and melodrama, though most famous for their visual spectacle, revues frequently satirized contemporary figures, news or literature. Similar to the related subforms of operetta and musical theatre, the art form brings together music, dance. In contrast to these, however, revue does not have an overarching storyline, rather, a general theme serves as the motto for a loosely-related series of acts that alternate between solo performances and dance ensembles. George Lederers The Passing Show is usually held to be the first successful American review, the English spelling was used until 1907 when Florenz Ziegfeld popularized the French spelling. Follies is now employed as an analog for revue, though the term was proprietary to Ziegfeld until his death in 1932. Other popular proprietary revue names included George Whites Scandals and Earl Carrolls Vanities, Revues are most properly understood as having amalgamated several theatrical traditions within the corpus of a single entertainment. Minstrelsys olio section provided a map of popular variety presentation. Theatrical extravaganzas, in particular, moving panoramas, demonstrated a vocabulary of the spectacular, burlesque, itself a bawdy hybrid of various theatrical forms, lent to classic revue an open interest in female sexuality and the masculine gaze. Revues enjoyed great success on Broadway from the World War I years until the Great Depression, the high ticket prices of many revues helped ensure audiences distinct from other live popular entertainments during their height of popularity. In 1914, the Follies charged $5.00 for an opening night ticket, at time, many cinema houses charged from $0.10 to 0.25. Among the many producers of revues, Florenz Ziegfeld played the greatest role in developing the classical revue through his glorification of a new theatrical type. Revues took advantage of their revenue stream to lure away performers from other media. Performers such as Eddie Cantor, Anna Held, W. C, fields, Bert Williams, the Marx Brothers and the Fairbanks Twins found great success on the revue stage. One of Cole Porters early shows was Raymond Hitchcocks revue Hitchy-Koo, composers or lyricists such as Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Irving Berlin, and George M. Cohan also enjoyed a tremendous reception on the part of audiences. Sometimes, an appearance in a revue provided a key early entry into entertainment, largely due to their centralization in New York City and adroit use of publicity, revues proved particularly adept at introducing new talents to the American theatre. Rodgers and Hart, one of the great composer/lyricist teams of the American musical theatre, comedian Fanny Brice, following a brief period in burlesque and amateur variety, bowed to revue audiences in Ziegfelds Follies of 1910. Specialist writers and composers of revues have included Sandy Wilson, Noël Coward, John Stromberg, George Gershwin, Earl Carroll, in Britain predominantly, Tom Arnold also specialised in promoting series of revues and his acts extended to the European continent and South Africa
Joan Crawford was an American film and television actress who began her career as a dancer and stage showgirl. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Crawford tenth on its list of the greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema. Beginning her career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies, before debuting as a girl on Broadway. In the 1930s, Crawfords fame rivaled, and later outlasted, MGM colleagues Norma Shearer, Crawford often played hard-working young women who find romance and success. These stories were received by Depression-era audiences and were popular with women. But her career gradually improved in the early 1940s, and she made a comeback in 1945 by starring in Mildred Pierce. She would go on to receive Best Actress nominations for Possessed, in 1955, Crawford became involved with the Pepsi-Cola Company through her marriage to company Chairman Alfred Steele. After his death in 1959, Crawford was elected to fill his vacancy on the board of directors, following a public appearance in 1974, after which unflattering photographs were published, Crawford withdrew from public life and became increasingly reclusive until her death in 1977. Her first three ended in divorce, the last ended with the death of husband Alfred Steele. She adopted five children, one of whom was reclaimed by his birth mother, Crawfords relationships with her two older children, Christina and Christopher, were acrimonious. Crawford disinherited the two, and, after Crawfords death, Christina wrote a well-known tell-all memoir titled Mommie Dearest, Crawfords remains are interred at the Ferncliff Cemetery, in Hartsdale, New York. Born Lucille Fay LeSueur in San Antonio, Texas, on March 23, Crawfords birth year is disputed, with 1904,1905 and she was the youngest and third child of father Thomas E. LeSueur, a laundry laborer, and mother Anna Bell Johnson. Johnson was of English, French Huguenot, Swedish, and Irish ancestry, Crawfords elder siblings were sister Daisy LeSueur, who died before Lucilles birth, and brother Hal LeSueur. Crawfords father abandoned the family a few months before her birth, reappearing later in 1930 in Abilene, Texas, following LeSueurs departure from the family home, Crawfords mother married Henry J. Cassin. The marriage is listed in the census as Crawfords mothers first marriage, Crawford lived with her mother, stepfather, and siblings in Lawton, Oklahoma. There, Cassin, an impresario, ran the Ramsey Opera House and managed to book diverse. At that time, Crawford was reportedly unaware that Cassin, whom she called daddy, was not her father until her brother Hal told her the truth. Crawford preferred the nickname Billie as a child and enjoyed watching vaudeville acts perform on the stage of her stepfathers theatre, because the familys instability negatively affected Crawfords childhood, her schooling never formally progressed beyond elementary school
John D. Rockefeller Jr.
John Davison Rockefeller Jr. was an American financier and philanthropist who was a prominent member of the Rockefeller family. He was the only son among the five children of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller, in biographies, he is commonly referred to as Junior to distinguish him from his father, Senior. Rockefeller was the fifth and last child of Standard Oil co-founder John Davison Rockefeller Sr. and his four older sisters were Elizabeth, Alice, Alta, and Edith. His father John Sr. and uncle William Avery Rockefeller Jr. co-founded Standard Oil together, nicknamed Johnny Rock by his roommates, he joined both the Glee and the Mandolin Clubs, taught a Bible class and was elected junior class president. Scrupulously careful with money, he stood out as different from other rich mens sons, in 1897 he graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, after taking nearly a dozen courses in the social sciences, including a study of Karl Marxs Das Kapital. He joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and he later also became a director at J. P. Morgans U. S. Steel company, which had been formed in 1901. In April 1914, after a period of industrial unrest. Junior owned a controlling interest in the company and sat on the board as an absentee director, at least 20 men, women, and children died in the incident, and in January 1915 Junior was called to testify before the Commission on Industrial Relations. Many critics blamed Rockefeller for ordering the massacre, Margaret Sanger wrote an attack piece in her magazine The Woman Rebel declaring, But remember Ludlow. Remember the men and women and children who were sacrificed in order that John D. Rockefeller Jr. might continue his career of charity. He was at the time being advised by William Lyon Mackenzie King, Lee warned that the Rockefellers were losing public support and developed a strategy that Junior followed to repair it. This was novel advice, and attracted media attention, which opened the way to resolve the conflict. The family office, of which he was in charge, shifted from 26 Broadway to the 56th floor of the landmark 30 Rockefeller Plaza upon its completion in 1933, the office formally became Rockefeller Family and Associates. In 1921, Junior received about 10% of the shares of the Equitable Trust Company from his father, subsequently, in 1930, Equitable merged with Chase National Bank, making Chase the largest bank in the world at the time. Although his stockholding was reduced to about 4% following this merger, as late as the 1960s, the family still retained about 1% of the banks shares, by which time his son David had become the banks president. In the late 1920s, Rockefeller founded the Dunbar National Bank in Harlem, the financial institution was located within the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments at 2824 Eighth Avenue near 150th Street, servicing a primarily African-American clientele. It was unique among New York City financial institutions in that it employed African Americans as tellers, clerks, however, the bank folded after only a few years of operation. This letter became an important event in pushing the nation to repeal Prohibition, Rockefeller was known for his philanthropy, giving over $537 million to myriad causes over his lifetime compared to $240 million to his own family
Josephine Baker was a French vedette, singer and entertainer, whose career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adoptive country of France. During her early career she was renowned as a dancer, and was among the most celebrated performers to headline the lavish revues of the Folies Bergère in Paris. She was celebrated by artists and intellectuals of the era, who dubbed her the Black Pearl, the Bronze Venus. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she renounced her U. S. citizenship, Baker was the first person of African descent to become a world-famous entertainer and to star in a major motion picture, the 1934 Marc Allégret film Zouzou. Baker refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States and is noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, in 1968 she was offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the United States by Coretta Scott King, following Martin Luther King Jr. s assassination. After thinking it over, Baker declined the offer out of concern for the welfare of her children and she was also known for aiding the French Resistance during World War II. After the war, she was awarded the Croix de guerre by the French military, Josephine Baker was born as Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother, Carrie, was adopted in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1886 by Richard and Elvira McDonald, Josephine Bakers estate identifies vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson as her natural father despite evidence to the contrary. Bakers foster son Jean-Claude Baker wrote a biography on her that was published in 1993 titled Josephine, Jean-Claude Baker did an exhaustive amount of research into the life of Josephine Baker, including the identity of her biological father. In the book, he discusses at length the circumstances surrounding Josephine Bakers birth, Carrie McDonald and Eddie Carson had a song-and-dance act, when Josephine was about a year old they began to carry her onstage occasionally during their finale. She was further exposed to business at an early age because her childhood neighborhood was home to many vaudeville theaters that doubled as movie houses. These venues included the Jazzland, Booker T. Washington, the incident was immortalized that year by songwriter Bill Dooley, in a song called Frankie Killed Allen, which later was revamped as the American classic blues ballad Frankie and Johnny. Josephine was always poorly dressed and hungry as a child, and she had little formal education, and attended Lincoln Elementary School only through the fifth grade. Josephines mother married a kind but perpetually unemployed man, Arthur Martin, with whom she had a son and she took in laundry to wash to make ends meet, and at eight years old, Josephine began working as a live-in domestic for white families in St. Louis. One woman abused her, burning Josephines hands when the girl put too much soap in the laundry. At 13, Josephine also worked as a waitress at the Old Chauffeurs Club at 3133 Pine Street. She also lived as a child in the slums of St. Louis, sleeping in cardboard shelters, scavenging for food in garbage cans. It was at the Old Chauffeurs Club where Josephine met Willie Wells, however, the marriage lasted less than a year and she left Wells to join a black vaudeville group