David Belasco was born on July 25, 1853, in San Francisco, California. At a young age, he began working at the Metropolitan Theatre in San Francisco doing a variety of odd jobs, eventually earning the right to serve as a stage manager. He made his debut as an actor when he was eleven, playing a young prince in Charles Kean’s production of Richard III. When Belasco was only twelve, he wrote his first play, Jim Black or The Regulator’s Revenge.
In 1882, Belasco moved to New York City to become a stage manager for the Madison Square Theatre. In 1893, Belasco wrote his first real hit, The Girl I Left Behind Me. By 1985, he had become a successful independent producer. During his career between 1884 and 1930, Belasco wrote, directed, or produced more than 100 Broadway plays including The Hearth of Maryland (1895) and Madame Butterfly (1900). During the early 20th century, Belasco also began to produce the works of other writers.
He is also recognized for creating stage sets on a standard of naturalism, with attention to detail. Belasco was further known for his innovative lighting techniques to set the mood. In 1902, he opened the first Belasco Theatre in New York City, which instituted many significant innovations in stage lighting. Although the second Belasco Theatre in New York was built in 1907 as the Stuyvesant Theatre, it was renamed after Belasco in 1910. There are also several other cities in which Belasco Theatres existed, including in Los Angeles (1926) and Washington D.C.
Belasco died on May 14, 1931, at the age of 77, in New York City.
Source: “David Belasco (1853 - 1931).” American Jewish Desk Reference. NY: Random House, 1999. pg. 347.
David Belasco: Wikipedia
Picture by: Library of Congress. George Grantham Bain Collection. Pach Bros., N.Y.