Thursday, May 05, 2011

Charles Frohman, Theatrical Manager

Charles Frohman was the son of Henry and Babette Strauss Frohman, born in Sandusky in 1860. (Some sources say 1856.) Henry Frohman was born in Germany, but moved to the United States as a young man. The Frohmans had a family of seven children. All three of the Frohman sons, Gustave, Daniel, and Charles, were involved in the theater.

A historical marker on Lawrence Street in Sandusky marks the birthplace of Charles, Daniel and Gustave Frohman.

Around 1864, the Frohman family moved from Sandusky, Ohio to New York City, where Charles found work at a newspaper office. Charles Frohman started his career in the theater by selling tickets, but soon joined his brother Daniel Frohman in management. Charles had his first success as a producer with the production of Shenandoah in 1889.

Soon he took over Proctor’s Theater, and eventually started the Charles Frohman Stock Company. Charles Frohman was one of the founders of the Theatrical Syndicate which for a time controlled theaters in America.

In 1893 Charles Frohman and Al Hayman opened the Empire Theater, which was for many years the oldest and most prestigious playhouse in New York City. Charles saw the theater makes its transition from the stock system to the star system. Frohman personally managed a bright group of stars, including Ethel Barrymore, John Drew, and Nat Goodwin. He coached actors in their parts, advised them, and often sent them gifts of books, candy, and flowers. By 1900, Charles was producing plays in New York and London, where his favorite playwright was J. M. Barrie, author of the play Peter Pan.

Charles Frohman traveled back and forth between New York and London often, usually in the fall. On May 15, 1915, Frohman was aboard the Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. The ship sank in just eighteen minutes, and over one thousand lives were lost. The body of Charles Frohman was recovered, and following a private funeral at Daniel Frohman’s home, there were several public memorial services held simultaneously. John Barrymore was an honorary pallbearer at the service at Temple Emmanu-El held on May 25, 1915. Other services were held in England, Los Angeles, and Tacoma, Washington. Charles Frohman is buried in Union Field Cemetery in Queens.
Daniel Frohman and Isaac Frederick Marcosson co-authored a biography of Charles Frohman, entitled Charles Frohman: Manager and Man. This book is located at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library, and is also available online. The Sandusky Library also has several books written by  Charles E. Frohman, a nephew. Charles E. Frohman wrote a number of local history books about Sandusky, Erie County, and the Lake Erie Islands region. Another excellent resource which was created by Charles E. Frohman is his index to the Sandusky Register and the Sandusky Star Journal, located in the microfilm case at the Archives Research Center.

No comments: