David Belasco Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

ph_0111207674-Belasco.jpg David Belasco Published by Salem Press, Inc.

David Belasco published a number of human-interest essays and articles about stagecraft, including “How I Stage My Plays” and “Stage Realism of the Future.” A serialized autobiography, “My Life’s Story,” was published in Hearst’s Magazine from March, 1914, to December, 1915, followed four years later by a full-length memoir, The Theatre Through Its Stage Door (1919). With two of his most popular plays later turned into novels, Belasco was one of the first in the United States to capitalize on the success of dramatic works by revising them for a new reading audience.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

While contemporary critics frequently criticized David Belasco’s penchant for melodrama, his immense popular success was a product of his reliance on heart-interest as well as a strict interpretation of the fourth-wall convention. Belasco paid meticulous attention to details, often rewriting extensively in rehearsal. Indeed, he is best remembered for his directing methods, his realism, and his technical effects.

Belasco was the directing genius behind many actors and actresses. David Warfield, for example, who began his career with the burlesque company Weber and Fields, under Belasco’s tutelage moved from the farcical The Auctioneer to Belasco’s own seriocomic The Return of Peter Grimm and later appeared in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (pr. c. 1596-1597, pb. 1600). Perhaps “Mr. Dave’s” greatest success was Leslie Carter, a society divorcée who undertook two years of acting lessons from Belasco. Best remembered for her electrifying performance in The Heart of Maryland, the fiery-haired actress exemplified the sensationalism that Belasco’s audiences enjoyed. Such individual triumphs by no means detracted from Belasco’s attention to his entire company. On the one hand, he encouraged every expression of individual talent, no matter how slender; on the other, he held long, painstaking rehearsals commencing at least six weeks before opening night.

Belasco believed that the...

(The entire section is 470 words.)


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)


Boardman, Gerald. American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1914-1930. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. This study of Broadway dramas covers a number of Belasco’s works.

DiGaetani, John Louis. Puccini the Thinker: The Composer’s Intellectual and Dramatic Development. 2d ed. New York: Peter Lang, 2001. This biography of Puccini examines his operas, some of which were based on Belasco’s plays. Contains bibliography, discography, videography, and index.

Green, Adam. “The Phantom of the Belasco: A Tale.” New York Times Current Events Edition, July 16, 1995, p. 25. An account of a Broadway production’s attempt to find Belasco’s ghost in the boarded-up rooms of his apartment above the Belasco Theater.

Marker, Lise-Lone. David Belasco: Naturalism in the American Theatre. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975. This volume is considered the standard and most scholarly biography of Broadway’s most innovative producer, including Belasco’s very successful collaboration with James A. Herne.

Meserve, Walter J. “David Belasco.” In Twentieth Century American Dramatists, edited by John MacNicholas. Vol. 7 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit, Mich.: The Gale Group, 1981. A concise overview of the life and works of Belasco.

Meserve, Walter J., and Mollie A. Meserve, eds. Fateful Lightning: America’s Civil War Plays. New York: Feedback Theatrebooks and Prospero Press, 2000. This anthology of Civil War plays provides a history of the American theater in the second half of the nineteenth century, providing information on Belasco as well as his play The Heart of Maryland.

Winter, William. The Life of David Belasco. 1925. Reprint. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1970. This reprint of the 1925 edition was completed by the author’s son, William Jefferson Winter, after the author’s death. It discusses the history of theater in the United States as well as the playwright’s long career.