Hassard Short

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Hassard Short
Hassard Short 1907.jpg
Hassard Short in 1907
Born (1877-10-15)15 October 1877
Edlington, Lincolnshire, UK
Died 9 October 1956(1956-10-09) (aged 78)
Nice, France
Occupation Stage director, set designer, lighting designer, actor
Years active 1895–1953[1]
Partner(s) Billy Ladd

Hubert Edward Hassard Short (1877–1956), usually known as Hassard Short, was an actor, stage director, set designer and lighting designer in musical theatre[2] who directed over 50 Broadway and West End shows between 1920 and 1953.[3][4] Theatre historian Ken Bloom called him "one of Broadway's greatest directors and lighting designers",[5] while theatre writer John Kenrick described him as a "groundbreaking director and choreographer".[6]

After 25 years acting on stage and in films, Short turned to directing and designing in 1920. He made many innovations in stage lighting and design, including the first permanent lighting bridge (Music Box Revue, 1921) and first the use of a revolving stage in a Broadway musical (The Band Wagon, 1931).[3][7] He continued to direct until 1952.

Early life[edit]

Short in the 1905 Broadway play The Toast of the Town

Short was born in Edlington, Lincolnshire into the English landed gentry, the elder son of Edward Hassard Short and Geraldine Rachel Blagrave.[8] He left school when a teenager to seek a career on the stage. He made his first acting appearance in London in 1895 before being brought to New York City by producer Charles Frohman in 1901, where he continued to appear on stage until 1919.[9][10] He also acted in five films between 1917 and 1921, the last being Woman's Place.[1]

Directing and stagecraft career[edit]

Short decided to give up acting in favour of directing and stagecraft around 1920; a short piece in The New York Times in July that year announced "his intention of becoming a vaudeville impresario on a large scale", as well as his appointment by producer Joseph Weber as director of the operetta Honeydew.[11] In this production an electrician operated overhead spotlights above the stage from a bosun's chair, the first of Short's many innovations in stage lighting.[3]

His first major hits as a stage director came with the series of Music Box Revues from 1921–23, which showcased Irving Berlin's songs.[1] As well as innovative lighting, he included mechanical effects such as moving stages and elevators, though these were not received with universal approval: the critic Gilbert Seldes complained that "Hassard Short, confusing the dynamics of the theatre with mere hoisting power, moves everything that can be moved except the audience."[12]

Short adapted well to the more limited budgets of the 1930s by staging revues, including many collaborations with producer Max Gordon and choreographer Albertina Rasch.[4] In Three's a Crowd (1930), he dispensed with footlights for the first time on the New York stage by attaching lights to the balcony railing.[13] He staged the groundbreaking 1931 revue The Band Wagon on double revolving turntables, allowing rapid scene changes.[6] His opulent staging of The Great Waltz (1934), financed by John D. Rockefeller, was an exception to the tightened purse-strings of the time and confounded many critics by becoming a hit in both New York and London.[2][6]

His wartime hits included Lady in the Dark (1941), Something for the Boys (1943) and Carmen Jones (1943). Short continued to work into his seventies: he staged a successful revival of Show Boat in 1948, and the last show he worked on was My Darlin' Aida, which opened in 1952.[2][4][9] Short then retired to the South of France, where he died in 1956.[10]

Private life[edit]

A homosexual in a closeted era, Short enjoyed a long-lasting relationship with Billy Ladd, a former chorus dancer.[2][10]


Among the more notable productions that Short staged are the following (original productions unless stated otherwise):[4]

Title Opened in
Music Box Revue 1921
Sunny 1925
The Band Wagon 1931
As Thousands Cheer 1933
The Great Waltz 1934
Jubilee 1935
Between the Devil 1937
The Hot Mikado 1939
Lady in the Dark 1941
Banjo Eyes 1941
Something for the Boys 1943
Carmen Jones 1943
Mexican Hayride 1944
Marinka 1945
Show Boat (revival) 1946


  1. ^ a b c Hassard Short at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b c d Kenrick, John. Who's Who in Musicals: Short, Hassard Musicals101.com. Accessed 2009-08-13.
  3. ^ a b c "Milestones, Oct. 22, 1956". Time (magazine). October 22, 1956. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hassard Short at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. ^ Bloom, Ken (2004). Broadway: its history, people, and places: an encyclopedia. New York: Routledge. p. 39. ISBN 0-415-93704-3. 
  6. ^ a b c Kenrick, John. History of The Musical Stage. 1930s - Part II: Legendary Revues. Musicals101.com.
  7. ^ "Hassard Short, Director, Dead". New York Times. October 10, 1956. p. 39. Staged 50 Broadway Shows—Made Many Innovations in Lighting and Designing—Born in England—Used Traveling Platform. 
  8. ^ Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval (2001). The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal: Mortimer-Percy Volume. Heritage Books. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-7884-1872-3. 
  9. ^ a b [Hubert] Hassard Short. The Oxford Companion to American Theatre. Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed via Answers.com 13 August 2009.
  10. ^ a b c Winkler, Kevin (2005). Harbin, Billy J.; Marra, Kim; Schanke, Robert A., ed. The gay & lesbian theatrical legacy: a biographical dictionary of major figures in American stage history in the pre-Stonewall era. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. pp. 334–337. ISBN 0-472-06858-X.  (Limited preview on Google Books)
  11. ^ "Enter Hassard Short.". The New York Times. July 25, 1920. p. 66. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  12. ^ Seldes, Gilbert (2001). The 7 Lively Arts. New York: Dover Publications. p. 143. ISBN 0-486-41473-6. 
  13. ^ Ries, Frank W. D. (1983). "Albertina Rasch: The Broadway Career". Dance Chronicle 6 (2): 95–137. doi:10.1080/01472528208568858. JSTOR 1567635. 

Further reading[edit]