Charles Dillingham

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Charles B. Dillingham

Charles Bancroft Dillingham (May 30, 1868 – August 30, 1934) was a Broadway producer.

Biography[edit]

Charles Bancroft Dillingham was born on May 30, 1868 in Hartford , Connecticut to Edmund Bancroft Dillingham, an Episcopalian clergyman and Josephine Potter. He graduated from the Hartford schools and went to work for a newspaper in Hartford, which sent him to Washington D.C. as a correspondent. He went to Chicago where he joined the staff of the Chicago Times-Herald. Moving to New York he was hired by The Evening Sun for $15 per week. He became a theater critic for the New York Post. In 1896 he wrote a play "Ten P.M." which was produced at the Bijou Thater. The producer Charles Frohman saw it and offered Dillingham a job as a advertising agent. They formed a theatrical alliance and a friendship that lasted until Frohman went down with the Lusitania in 1915.

After leaving the employ of Frohman he formed the Dillingham Theatre Corporation. He also was a ssocated over many years with A. L. Erlanger and Florenz Ziegfeld. The three were the principals of the A.L. Erlanger Amusement Enterprises, Inc. The 1936 Academy award Best Picture Winner The Great Ziegfeld told the story not only of Ziegfeld but also of Dillingham although it used the name "Billings" for Dillingham' likely due to Dillingham estate issues in which the Ziegfeld estate was owed money by the bankruptcy of Dillingham in 1933.

Dillingham was also the owner of the Hippodrome, which in its time was the largest theatrical venue in the world. There he produced ice skating spectacles and competitions,dance troupes such as Anna Pavlova, and it is where 'Poor Butterfly' was first heard. On January 10,1910 he opened the Globe Theatre at Broadway and 46th Street. It was a wonder with a retractable roof. It is in 2018 the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

Dillingham also introduced and managed dozens of stars actors including Julia Marlowe, Ruby Keeler and dozens of others.

Dillingham began his producing career in 1902, with a production of The Cavalier, starring Julia Marlowe, William Lewers and Frank Worthing. Other noteworthy productions include:

He also produced several musicals and musical reviews during his career, including Watch Your Step, the first musical by Irving Berlin (which featured Vernon and Irene Castle in their Broadway debut).

In 1915, Dillingham hired the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova to perform in New York City for six months.

Personal life[edit]

Dillingham was married in 1896 to actress and singer Jennie Yeaman who was a former child star. She died in 1906. On May 5, 1913 in Purchase, New York he married Eileen Ann Kearney formerly of Stillwater, Minnesota. The new Mrs. Dillingham was part of the Alla Nazimova dance troupe and later was in several productions of Dillingham's. The couple lived at 153 East Sixty-third Street in a home owned in 2018 by Spike Lee. The couple were regulars in society just as the old guard and the theater world began mingling. They were among the early snowbirds fleeing to Palm Beach during the winter season. They were often at European social scenes such as the Ascot and Longchamps racecourses. The marriage broke up in August of 1924 after Mrs. Dillingham became enamored of Julius Broome Livingston Allen, twelve years her junior, whom she married in October of that year. The divorce caused a sensation and was reported in Time magazine. Eileen was a life long friend of Florenz Ziegfeld's wife the actress Billie Burke. She died in 1957 after divorcing her second husband, whom she married twice.

There have been various reports and rumors of Dillingham's homosexuality including a longtime relationship with Charles Frohman, with whom he lived for some time between his marriages. His second wife's family believed theirs to be a marriage of convenience. He was considered a gentleman of the old school, good-natured, having a good sense of humor, well-dressed and always kept farce, vulgarity, exhibitionism and hints of impropriety out of his productions, befitting the son of a clergyman. He was a pall bearer at Harry Houdini's funeral where he was thought to have quipped, "Let's see him get out of this one."

Dillingham died on August 30, 1934 at the Hotel Astor where he lived. He was buried in Hartford and was survived by his sister Mabel Ballard Dillingham Newton and her daughter Marjory Newton Nolan.

References[edit]

  • Charles Dillingham obituary, New York Times August 31,, 1934.
  • Eileen Kearney file in the archives of grand-nephew Christopher McHugh, 2018, Pine City, MN
  • Christopher McHugh public family tree, Ancestry.com

External links[edit]