Life and work
Referred to as both Mark and Marc, he was born in Paducah, Kentucky. He studied law at Louisville Law School, graduating in 1879. He set up a law practice in Louisville and also worked as a part-time drama critic. In 1881 he moved to New York City to work on legal issues regarding the theatre for theatre executive Gustave Frohman. Klaw was drawn to the theatre business, and for several years was a manager of tours. He formed a partnership with A. L. "Abe" Erlanger that started out as a theatrical booking agency in New York City in 1888. Operating as "Klaw & Erlanger" they expanded their business through the acquisition and construction of theaters to the point where they controlled most of the theaters in the U.S. South and several major locations in New York. Among their holdings were they owned "Klaw and Erlanger's Costume Company" and the "Klaw & Erlanger Opera Company." By 1895 Klaw & Erlanger were the second largest booking company in the United States.
In 1896, Klaw & Erlanger joined with Al Hayman, Charles Frohman, Samuel F. Nixon, and J. Fred Zimmerman, Sr. to form the "Theatrical Syndicate." Their organization established systemized booking networks throughout the United States and created a monopoly that controlled every aspect of contracts and bookings until the late 1910s when the Shubert brothers broke their hold on the industry.
Despite being near universally despised by most in the industry for their ruthless tactics, Klaw and Erlanger produced dozens of Broadway plays and financed many others including the early editions of the Ziegfeld Follies. The partnership of Klaw & Erlanger was badly hurt as a result of the Actors' Equity strike of 1919. The partnership ended in 1919, and the last Broadway production by "Klaw and Erlanger" was in 1919 (The Velvet Lady). After that, Marc Klaw produced plays on his own until his retirement in 1927.
After his retirement, in 1929 Klaw moved to England, where died in 1936 at Bracken Fell, Hassocks, West Sussex. He is buried in the churchyard of the nearby Saint John the Baptist church in Clayton.
- "Marcus Klaw"Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders, 1983, Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-23908-8, pp.724-726
- "The Theatrical Syndicate" wayneturney.20m.com, accessed December 3, 2011
- "Marc Klaw Broadway Listing" Internet Broadway database Listing, accessed December 3, 2011
- "Marc Klaw Dies in England At 78" The New York Times, June 15, 1936, p.21