David Belasco was born in San Fransisco, California, on July 25,1853. Hisparents had come to California from London in the gold rush. Belasco grew upin San Fransisco and Victoria, British Columbia. His early education in a RomanCatholic monastery influenced his simple mode of dress and helped earn him the nickname Bishop of Broadway. He had some experience as a child actor, and from 1873 to 1879 worked in a number of San Fransisco theaters as everything from call boy and script copier to actor, stage manager, and playwright. He paid further theatrical dues in the time he spent as a "theatrical vagabond" (Belasco's term), acting in small theatrical companies trouping through the mining camps and frontier settlements of the Pacific Slope. He recited poetry, sang, danced, painted and built scenery, and played everything from Hamlet to Fagin in Oliver Twist and Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin. In 1879, with James A. Herne, his first important collaborator, he wrote the popular melodrama Hearts of Oak.
In 1880, Theatrical manager Daniel Frohman brought Belasco to New
York City, where he spent most of his life. For several years he was the stage manager of the Madison Square Theater, for which he wrote plays, Achieving popularity with May Blossom (1884), a Civil War love story. It was followed by Lord Chumbley (1888), a domestic drama featuring a comic Englishmen. In 1893, written with Franklyn Fyles, was The Girl I Left Behind Me, a popular Indian melodrama.
In 1895, Belasco had his first smash hit as a playwright , director, and independent manager. His Civil War melodrama, The Heart of Maryland, became a runaway success in New York, in London, and on tour across the U.S.. Belasco wrote the play as a showcase for the particular talents of an actress who would be the first in a long line of "Belasco stars"-- a notorious, flame -haired society divorcee named Mrs. Leslie Carter. Other stars discovered and trained by Belasco include David Warfield and...