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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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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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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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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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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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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).

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Lee, Canada (03 May 1907–09 May 1952), actor, theater producer, bandleader, and boxer, was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata in New York City, the son of James Cornelius Canegata, a clerk, and Lydia Whaley. Lee’s father came from a wealthy and politically prominent family in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, whose ancestors had adopted a Danish surname. Lee’s grandfather owned a fleet of merchant ships; the family also raced horses. James Canegata shipped out as a cabin boy at eighteen, settled in Manhattan, married, and worked for National Fuel and Gas for thirty-one years. Lee grew up in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan’s West Sixties and attended P.S. 5 in Harlem. An indifferent student, he devoted more energy to fisticuffs than to schoolwork. Lee studied violin from age seven with composer J. Rosamund Johnson, and at age eleven he was favorably reviewed at a student concert in Aeolian Hall; his parents hoped he would become a concert violinist....

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Logan, Joshua (05 October 1908–12 July 1988), director, producer, playwright, lyricist, and actor, was born Joshua Lockwood Logan in Texarkana, Texas. His lumberman father, Joshua Lockwood Logan, Sr., died when Logan was only three years old. He was raised in Louisiana by his mother, Susan Nabors, and stepfather, Howard F. Noble, an officer on the staff of the Culver Military Academy, where Logan attended school. Logan began his theatrical career in 1928 as a student at Princeton University, where he was a founder of the University Players, a summer stock group that performed on Cape Cod and that also included ...

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Lunt, Alfred (12 August 1892–03 August 1977), and Lynn Fontanne (06 December 1887–30 July 1983), actors and producers., Lillie Louise Fontanne, known from childhood as Lynn, was born in Woodford, Essex, England, the daughter of Jules Pierre Antoine Fontanne, a printer, and Frances Ellen Thornley Barnett. Lynn demonstrated theatrical aptitude at an early age and was recommended by a family friend to Ellen Terry, England’s foremost actress, who occasionally gave lessons to talented aspirants. Partly as a result of Terry’s training, Fontanne was given secondary roles in plays in London and on tour throughout England from 1905 to 1916, at which time she emigrated to the United States, accepting an offer to perform in a company headed by ...

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Macgowan, Kenneth (30 November 1888–27 April 1963), drama critic, director/producer, and theater educator, was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, the son of Peter Stainforth Macgowan and Susan Arletta Hall. Before he graduated from Harvard in 1911 he was already working as an assistant drama critic for the ...

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Muse, Clarence E. (07 October 1889–13 October 1979), actor, producer, and writer of plays and films, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Alexander Muse and Mary Sales. He was educated at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he became interested in music and participated in choral groups; although he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international law in 1911, he immediately embarked on a musical and theatrical career. In 1907 he married Frieda Belle Moore; the marriage was apparently dissolved soon after the birth of their son in 1910....

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Todd, Michael (22 June 1907?–22 March 1958), showman, was born Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Chaim Goldbogen, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, and Sophia Hellerman. Todd, whose birth at home was never officially recorded, was the seventh of eight children in a Polish immigrant family and the first born in the United States. A childhood nickname of “Toat” evolved into his adult surname (adopted legally after his father’s death in 1931). Even as a youngster in Minneapolis and later in Bloomington, Minnesota, Todd displayed the promotional flair that was to be the hallmark of his career in entertainment. By his own account he was working before he was seven for pitchmen, gathering sidewalk crowds. Todd’s formal education ended with the sixth grade....

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Wanger, Walter (11 July 1894–18 November 1968), theater and film producer, was born Walter Feuchtwanger in San Francisco, California, the son of Sigmund Feuchtwanger, a Jewish clothing manufacturer, and Stella Stettheimer. Under the tutelage of his cultured parents and relatives, Wanger developed an interest in theater, opera, and the arts in San Francisco and Europe at the turn of the century....