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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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Albert, Eddie (22 April 1906–26 May 2005), actor and environmental activist, was born Edward Albert Heimberger in Rock Island, Illinois, the son of Frank Daniel Heimberger, a realtor, and Julia Jones. At the age of one his family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he attended parochial school before graduating from Central High School in 1924. He then entered the University of Minnesota where he majored in business and worked his way up to manager at the local theater. Young Eddie left school without graduating and worked a series of odd jobs before joining a singing trio that appeared on the local radio station. Tired of hearing his name mangled as “hamburger” he changed it to Eddie Albert, and after successfully auditioning at NBC he moved to New York with partner Grace Bradt to star in ...

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Blackmer, Sidney (13 July 1895–05 October 1973), actor, director, and producer, was born Sidney Alderman Blackmer in Salisbury, North Carolina, the son of Walter Steele Blackmer, a businessman, and Clara De Roulhac Alderman. He graduated from high school in 1908 and for the next three years studied liberal arts at academies in Warrentown, North Carolina, and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. In 1913 he enrolled at the University of North Carolina to study law, made the varsity football team, and became a star fullback. By summer his priorities changed, and he left for a sabbatical in Europe....

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Boleslavsky, Richard Valentinovich (04 February 1889–17 January 1937), acting teacher, stage and film director, actor, and author, was born Boleslaw Ryszard Srzednicki in Plock, Poland, the son of Valentine Srzednicki, a landowner, and Pani (maiden name unknown). When the family estate was lost, the Srzednickis relocated to South Bessarabia and then to Odessa, where Boleslaw received his education at the Polytechnic Institute of Odessa and the University of Odessa. He joined an amateur theater group in Odessa called the Polish Hearth, which he administered during his college days, in addition to performing leading roles. His first professional acting engagement was with a Russian troupe, sometime around 1904; his career began to flourish in 1908, when he was fully accepted as a student at the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) and almost immediately was admitted into the acting company. Richard Valentinovich Boleslavsky was his stage name, and he retained it when he immigrated to the United States in 1922....

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Brackett, Charles William (26 November 1892–09 March 1969), writer and motion-picture producer, was born in Saratoga Springs, New York, the son of Edgar Truman Brackett, a lawyer and state legislator, and Mary Emma Corliss. For a time, he seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps as a prominent lawyer in Saratoga Springs. Brackett did, indeed, pursue such a career in his college studies, first taking a B.A. from Williams College in 1915 and then receiving an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1920. While at Harvard, Brackett interrupted his studies in 1917 to serve in World War I, positioned in St. Nazaire, France, as a second lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Forces and serving as vice-consul and assistant liaison officer to the French general. His efforts were acknowledged with the awarding of the Medaille d’Honneur en Argent....

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Brisson, Frederick (17 March 1913–08 October 1984), stage and film producer, was born Carl Frederick Brisson, Jr., in Copenhagen, Denmark, the son of Carl Frederick Brisson, a Danish cabaret singing idol, and Cleo (maiden name unknown). At age ten, Brisson was taken to England, where he was educated and where he later began his lengthy career, the foundation of which had been formed when as a youngster he often accompanied his father on tour. After graduation from public school, he traveled as an advanced publicity man for Moss Empire Ltd., the owner of legitimate theaters in England....

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Brooke, J. Clifford (1873?–28 December 1951), actor and director, was born in England; his parents’ names are unknown. He began his career as an actor in London with Cyril Maude in The Second in Command (Nov. 1900) at the Haymarket Theatre. In the early years of the twentieth century he crossed the Atlantic and began his career in the United States doing walk-ons, then small roles. Eventually, in 1915, he distinguished himself on Broadway and in the touring company playing the title role in ...

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Brown, Gilmor (16 June 1886–10 January 1960), actor, director, and theater manager, was born George Gilmor Brown on a ranch and farm twelve miles outside New Salem, North Dakota, the son of Orville A. Brown and Emma Louise Gilmor. The seeds of Brown’s very active and fertile imagination seem to have been rooted in the loneliness and rural isolation of his early childhood. When he was six, however, the family moved to Denver, Colorado, where Brown began formal schooling and finally could socialize. There he became interested in theater. His father, who had wanted to become an actor but was not permitted to by his family, sometimes took him to vaudeville shows. When Brown was about eight, his mother encouraged and assisted him in forming his own theatrical company of neighborhood children dubbed the Tuxedo Stock Company. They performed their own plays, mostly tragedies and melodramas written by Brown. Brown worked with the troupe into his early teenage years. Despite his youth and lack of any theatrical training, his dedication and skill as a director impressed many, including Denver journalists. His efforts also attracted the attention of the pastor of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, who encouraged his interest in drama and invited Brown to participate in a summer camp in the Colorado Rockies. Brown founded a theater at the camp, staging Greek tragedies and classical drama outdoors in a magnificent alpine setting. Brown and others continued to mount such alfresco productions in the years that followed....

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Browne, Maurice (12 February 1881–21 January 1955), actor, director, and producer, was born in Reading, England, the son of Frederick Herbert Browne, a distinguished teacher, and Francis-Anna “Marsie” Neligan, the founder of a number of successful private schools. Educated at the private schools of Ipswich, Temple Grove, and Winchester, Browne later attended Eastbourne College and received his B.A. from Cambridge University....

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Coburn, Charles Douville (19 June 1877–30 August 1961), theatrical actor, manager, and director and film character actor, was born in Macon, Georgia, the son of Moses Douville Coburn and Emma Louise Sprigman. The family moved to Savannah, Georgia, when Charles was nine months old. An avid playgoer at the age of fourteen, Coburn was mistaken by the manager for a program boy as he stood in front of the Savannah Theatre, and he was ordered back to work inside; by the time he was seventeen he was managing the theater. Two years later he moved to New York City to pursue an acting career, surviving by wrapping bundles, ushering, and once by working as a six-day bicycle racer. His first acting job, in the 1898–1899 season, was with a Chicago company of ...

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Coe, Fred Hayden (23 December 1914–29 April 1979), television, film, and theater producer and director, was born in Alligator, Mississippi, the son of Frederick Hayden Coe and Annette Harroll. Coe was raised in Buckhorn, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, where he attended Peabody Demonstration School, writing the class play when he was twelve years old. He later studied at Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville. In 1938 he attended Yale Drama School, taking graduate studies until 1940, when he returned to Nashville to accept a job at radio station WSM. He also directed plays at a local Nashville community theater. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945. In the postwar period Coe became a pivotal figure in the early development of television, particularly the realm of live drama. In 1945 Coe was hired as a production manager at NBC and in 1948 produced and directed the acclaimed live dramatic series “Philco Television Playhouse,” which later became “Goodyear Playhouse.” These productions were intended to bring Broadway to American households, which they did admirably. From 1952 to 1956 Coe produced a variety of programs for NBC, including the situation comedy “Mr. Peepers,” with ...

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Da Silva, Howard (04 May 1909–16 February 1986), actor, director, and playwright, was born Howard Silverblatt in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Benjamin Silverblatt, a dress cutter, and Bertha Sohon. The family later moved to New York City and then to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Da Silva completed his education with a year at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (1927–1928), supporting himself by working in the city’s steel mills. He then hitchhiked to New York and became an apprentice in the Civic Repertory Company for a year’s study. His debut as an actor in the company’s 1929 production of ...

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Davenport, Benjamin Butler (1871?–07 April 1958), playwright, actor, and theater manager, was born in New York City, the son of John L. Davenport, a water commissioner, and (probably) Delia Post. He may have been called John at birth. Butler later claimed to have been dedicated to his art from age six, when his mother gave him a toy theater, or from age eight, when he “caught a glimpse” of ...

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DeSylva, B. G. (27 January 1895–11 July 1950), lyricist and film and theatrical producer, was born George Gard DeSylva in New York City, the son of Aloysius Joseph DeSylva, a vaudeville performer turned attorney, and Georgetta Gard, daughter of a U.S. marshal. When he was two, his family moved to Los Angeles, where his father—who had played in vaudeville as Hal de Forest—tried to make a child star of DeSylva. His debut came at age four in a song-and-dance routine at the Grand Opera House, and for a time he toured on the Keith vaudeville circuit. But DeSylva’s youthful show business career was terminated by his maternal grandfather, who insisted the boy receive a stable and normal education (Georgetta’s father had earlier prompted the elder DeSylva to quit show business and seek a “respectable” profession as a condition for marrying his daughter)....

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Divine (19 Oct. 1945–7 March 1988), film actor, stage performer, and singer, was born Harris Glenn Milstead in Baltimore, Maryland, to Harris Bernard Milstead and Frances Vukovich Milstead. Milstead was educated in the public schools in suburban Baltimore and graduated from Towson High School in ...

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Ford, Hugh (11 January 1867–29 December 1942), director and producer for theater and films, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of George Ford and Henrietta Price. He completed his education at the Van der Naillen School of Mines and Engineering.

Ford began his theatrical career as an actor; his appearance as a member of the cast of a melodrama, ...

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Gordone, Charles (12 October 1925–16 November 1995), playwright and actor-director, was born Charles Edward Fleming in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Charles Fleming and Camille Morgan Fleming. His stepfather was William Gordon. The boy never knew his biological father and often referred to himself as “part Indian, part Irish, part French, and part Nigger.” With the birth of Charles, the family moved to the mother's hometown, Elkhart, Indiana, where young Charles went to school. Shirley Gordon Jackson, the older of his two sisters, recalled that the family then moved out of the “colored” part of town and crossed the railroad tracks to the white side of Elkhart's “Mason-Dixon line.” All of Charles's school friends were white. He was a straight-A student, “doing everything right,” winning honors in dramatics, music, writing, and debate. He also received sixteen letters in sports and set a school record in the high jump....

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Griffith, Andy (7 June 1926–3 July 2012), Broadway, film, and television star, was born Andy Samuel Griffith, the only child of Carl Lee Griffith, a carpenter, and Geneva Nann (Nunn) Griffith in Mount Airy, North Carolina. His parents moved to Ohio, looking for work, and their toddler was raised by his maternal grandmother until he was three. In ...

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Houseman, John (22 September 1902–31 October 1988), producer, director, and actor, was born Jacques Haussmann in Bucharest, Romania, the son of Georges Haussmann, a Jewish-Alsatian grain merchant, and May Davies, a British woman of Welsh and Irish descent. As a small child Houseman spoke English to his mother, French to his father, German to his governess, and Romanian to the household staff. When Houseman was five years old, the grain business run by his father’s family went bankrupt, and he moved with his parents to Paris, where his father became a broker in commodities. At age seven Houseman was sent to the Clifton School in Bristol, England. Summer vacations and holidays were spent with his parents in France. His father died in 1917. After completing his studies at Clifton in December 1920, Houseman lived for a year in Argentina, working on a cattle ranch and as a clerk at the Dutch Bank of South America. Returning to England, he turned down a scholarship to Cambridge University in order to help support his mother and became an apprentice at an international grain brokerage in London....

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Canada Lee Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 687 P&P).