John Murray Anderson

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John Murray Anderson

John Murray Anderson (September 20, 1886 – January 30, 1954) was a theatre director and producer, songwriter, actor, screenwriter, dancer and lighting designer. He worked almost every genre of show business, including vaudeville, Broadway, and film.

Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, the son of Hon. John Anderson and brother of Hugh Abercrombie Anderson, he received his early education at Bishop Feild College in St. John's. He was then sent to Europe, where he was educated at Edinburgh Academy in Scotland and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He studied singing with Sir Charles Stanley and art with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Before beginning his theatrical career, he was an antiques dealer in New York City, where he sold collections he had accumulated in Newfoundland.[1] This lasted a year, as he said, because he had "everything but customers" in his store.[2]

In New York, Anderson quickly became involved in theatre, first as a dance instructor, before becoming a writer and producer. He made his Broadway debut wearing three hats, as writer, director, and producer of The Greenwich Village Follies in 1919. He subsequently produced new editions of the revue in each of the five succeeding years. He also was responsible for productions of the Ziegfeld Follies in 1934, 1936, and 1943, the Harold Arlen-Ira Gershwin-E. Y. Harburg revue Life Begins at 8:40 (1934), Billy Rose's Jumbo (1935), One for the Money (1939), Two for the Show (1940), and Three to Make Ready (1946), and New Faces of 1952. In the West End he directed The League of Notions, Bow Bells, and Fanfare.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, with Robert Milton, he ran an acting school in Manhattan, teaching Lucille Ball and Bette Davis, among others. He and Davis remained good friends, and when her 1952 Broadway-bound revue Two's Company ran into problems on the road, he was hired to restage it.

Anderson worked as a director at Radio City Music Hall in 1933, as director of the Casa Manana revue at the Fort Worth Frontier Centennial in 1936, at the Great Lakes Exposition in Cleveland in 1937, at Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe from 1938-1950, and for Ringling Brothers Circus from 1942-1951.

Anderson directed the film King of Jazz (1930), wrote the screenplay for Ziegfeld Follies (1946), directed the water ballets in Bathing Beauty (1944), and directed the circus sequences in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).

John Murray Anderson married Genevieve Lyon of Chicago in 1914, but she died of tuberculosis in 1916. They had no children. In the year before his death, with his brother, Hugh, as writer, he dictated his autobiography, Out Without My Rubbers. He was a periodic visitor to Newfoundland throughout his life and was hailed there as a local hero. He died of a heart attack in New York City on January 30, 1954.

Further reading[edit]

  • Out Without My Rubbers (autobiography), 1954, New York: Library Publishers


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, ISBN 0-9693422-1-7.
  2. ^ J. Ernest Kerr, Imprint of the Maritimes, 1959, Boston: Christopher Publishing, p. 35.

External links[edit]