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Aarons, Alexander A. (15 May 1890–14 March 1943), theatrical producer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Alfred E. Aarons, a theatrical composer and producer, and Josephine Hall. He was educated in New York schools. Aarons, whose producing career lasted only thirteen years, did not immediately take up his father’s profession, but after hearing ...

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Aarons, Alfred E. (16 November 1865–16 November 1936), theatrical manager and producer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Aaron Aarons, a clothier, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Educated in Philadelphia public schools, at age fifteen he began working in the box office of the Central Theater. After several other theatrical jobs, Aarons established a dramatic and vaudeville agency in Philadelphia; he opened an office in New York City after moving there in 1890. There in the same year he married Josephine Hall, an actress. They had three children....

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Abbey, Henry Eugene (27 June 1846–17 October 1896), theatrical and operatic manager and impresario, was born in Akron, Ohio, the son of Henry Stephen Abbey, a clockmaker and partner in a jewelry business, and Elizabeth Smith. After graduating with honors from Akron High School, where he showed a keen interest in music, Abbey worked in his father’s jewelry store until he launched his artistic management career in 1869 at the Sumner Opera House in Akron. In 1871 he became manager of the newly opened Akron Academy of Music, where he stayed for one season before moving to work first at John Ellsler’s Euclid Avenue Opera House in Cleveland and then as treasurer of the Ellsler Opera House in Pittsburgh. While still in Akron, Abbey and Ellsler managed the tours of the singing and dancing Worrell Sisters, ...

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Abbott, Bud (02 October 1895–24 April 1974), and Lou Costello (06 March 1906–03 March 1959), a team of comedians on stage, radio, film, and television, were born, respectively, in Asbury Park and Paterson, New Jersey. Abbott (born William Alexander Abbott) was the son of Harry Abbott, a circus advance agent, and Rae Fisher, a circus bareback rider. Costello (born Louis Francis Cristillo) was the son of Sebastian Cristillo, an Italian-born silk weaver and insurance sales agent, and Helen Rege....

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Abbott, George (25 June 1889–31 January 1995), theatrical director and producer, was born George Francis Abbott in Forestville, New York, the son of George Burwell Abbott, a tailor, town mayor, and government land agent, and May McLaury. Abbott received his early education and worked as a telegraph boy and a cowboy while moving from Wyoming to Nebraska to New York, where he earned a B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1911. Between 1911 and 1912 Abbott, who said he wanted to be a poet or journalist, was enrolled in ...

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Ace, Goodman (15 January 1899–25 March 1982), and Jane Ace (12 October 1905–11 November 1974), radio entertainers of the 1930s and 1940s, were both born in Kansas City, Kansas, and broke into radio there in 1929. Goodman Ace’s father was Harry Aiskowitz, a haberdasher who had emigrated from Riga, Latvia; his mother was Anna Katzen. Goodman began working in the Wormser Hat Store in Kansas City as a teenager following his father’s death. At the age of twenty, however, he took a big cut in pay to become the movie and drama critic of the ...

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Acuff, Roy (15 September 1903–23 November 1992), country music singer and composer, was born Roy Claxton Acuff in Maynardsville, Tennessee, just a few miles north of Knoxville in a spur of the Great Smoky Mountains, the son of Neil Acuff, an attorney and pastor, and Ida Florence Carr. The family moved to Fountain City, a suburb of Knoxville, when Acuff was sixteen, and he spent most of his high school years excelling in sports. After graduation he was invited to have a tryout at a major league baseball camp, but a 1929 fishing trip to Florida resulted in a severe sunstroke, and Acuff was bedridden for a number of months. During his convalescence he reawakened an early interest in music and began to hone his abilities on the fiddle. By the time he had recovered, he had given up his dreams of a baseball career and had determined to utilize his newly discovered musical talent....

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Adams, Don (13 April 1923–25 September 2005), comedian and actor, was born Donald James Yarmy in New York City, the second of the three children of William Yarmy, a restaurant manager, and Consuelo Morgan. Adams, who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, liked to read and draw but had an aversion to New York public schools. Much of his youth was spent frequenting the movie theaters on 42nd Street, where he believed he received a better education. At parties he and his neighborhood friends, a number of whom also forged careers in show business, tried to top each other performing comic bits. Adams's forte became impersonations of the Hollywood stars of the day....

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Don Adams. With Barbara Feldon, on the set of the spoof spy showGet Smart, 10 September 1965. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Adams, Edwin (03 February 1834–28 October 1877), actor, was born in Medford, Massachusetts. Little is known about his parents or childhood. He made his professional debut in 1853 in Boston, where he appeared at the National Theatre as Stephen in Sheridan Knowles’s The Hunchback...

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Adams, Franklin P. (15 November 1881–23 March 1960), newspaper columnist, humorist, and radio personality, was born Franklin Pierce Adams in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Moses Adams, a dry-goods merchant, and Clara Schlossberg, both German-Jewish immigrants. During his childhood he was an avid reader of the classics, history, nineteenth-century fiction, and light verse. He studied mathematics and science at the Armour Scientific Academy in Chicago, graduating in 1899. He attended the University of Michigan for less than a year, during which he studied literature and after which he began to earn his own living....

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Grizzly Adams. Illustration from T. H. Hittell, The Adventures of James Capen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter of California, 1860. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92873).

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Adams, Grizzly (22 October 1812–25 October 1860), mountain man and wild animal tamer, was born John Adams in Medway, Massachusetts, the son of Eleazar Adams and Sybil Capen. Adams apparently served an apprenticeship as a cobbler, but when he was twenty-one he began hunting and trapping animals, for showmen, in the woods of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. He delighted in his work, which was cut short when he tried to control an unruly Bengal tiger. In doing this favor for an exhibitor, Adams was badly mangled. When he recovered his health, he went back to making boots and shoes....

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Adams, Joey (06 January 1911–02 December 1999), comedian, writer, and actor, was born Joseph Abramowitz in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Nathan Abramowitz, a tailor, and Ida Chonin. Growing up in Brownsville, a predominantly Jewish section of Brooklyn, Joey attended local public schools P.S. 171, Patrick Henry Junior High School, and DeWitt Clinton High School. He studied at City College of New York until his senior year but, already active in vaudeville, he dropped out shortly before graduating, in 1931, to pursue his ambitions as an entertainer. As a young child he met ...

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Adler, Jacob Pavlovich (12 February 1855–31 March 1926), actor, was born in Odessa, South Russia, the son of Feivel (Pavel) Abramovitch Adler and Hessye Halperin, both of the orthodox Jewish faith. He was educated in Hebrew school, but because of his father’s failure in business he was sent to work at any early age in a textile factory. His youth was dominated by a desire for pleasure that led him into bad company, but a new and all-absorbing interest in the Russian theater saved him from what he called the “grave moral danger” of this period. His enthusiasm for a leading Odessa actress came to her attention, and at her request the sixteen-year-old Adler became the leader of her clacque. In this post, which he held for several years, he saw the plays of Shakespeare, Schiller, and Ostrovsky, and the realistic acting of the Russian theater remained his ideal throughout his later life....

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Adler, Luther (04 May 1903–08 December 1984), stage, film, and television actor, was born in New York City, the son of Jacob Pavlovich Adler, founder of the American Yiddish theater movement, and Sara Levitzkaya Adler, an actress. While all of the children acted professionally, only Luther and his sister ...

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James Agee Photograph by Walker Evans, 1937. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103100).

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Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...

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Agronsky, Martin (12 January 1915–25 July 1999), broadcast journalist and commentator, was born Martin Zama Agronsky, the son of Isador Agronsky and Marcia Dvorin Agronsky, Jewish immigrants from Minsk, Russia (now Belarus). Born and raised in Philadelphia, he attended public schools and studied journalism at Rutgers University, where he received a bachelor of science degree in 1936. On graduating, Agronsky traveled to Jerusalem to take a job as a reporter with the ...

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Aiken, George L. (19 December 1830–27 April 1876), actor and playwright, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Lemuel G. Aiken, an actor, and Susan A. Wyatt. His “first remembrance [was] of a theater,” and it was not long before his services were enlisted in children’s roles at Boston’s Tremont Theatre. Douglas Jerrold’s ...