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 and acting career[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 aged fifteen to seek a career on the stage.[9] 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.[10][11] He also acted in five silent films between 1917 and 1921, the last being Woman's Place.[1]

Directing and stagecraft career[edit]

Short's first experience of directing was the 1908 hit Broadway play The Man from Home.[9] Alongside his acting work, he directed The Lambs Club Gambols, annual benefit productions, from 1911 to 1913.[9][11] During the 1919 Actors' Equity Association strike he staged a series of four all-star fundraising shows, which were so well received[11] that he decided his future lay in directing and stagecraft; a small advertisement in The New York Times in July 1920 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.[12] 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."[13]

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.[14] 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), for which he won the first Donaldson Award for best musical direction.[15] 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][10]

Private life[edit]

A homosexual in a closeted era, Short enjoyed a long-lasting relationship with Billy Ladd, a former chorus dancer.[2][11] Short retired to the South of France in 1952, and died there in 1956.[11]


Year Title Role
1917 The Moth A. Valentine Spencer
1918 The Turn of the Wheel Wally Gage
1919 The Stronger Vow Bibi Leroux
1919 The Way of a Woman Johnnie Flinch
1921 Woman's Place Freddy Bleeker

Stage productions[edit]

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

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


  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 c Hischak, Thomas S. (2006). Enter the Playmakers: Directors and Choreographers on the New York Stage. Scarecrow Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780810857476. 
  10. ^ a b [Hubert] Hassard Short. The Oxford Companion to American Theatre. Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed via Answers.com 13 August 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e Winkler, Kevin (2005). Harbin, Billy J.; Marra, Kim; Schanke, Robert A., eds. 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)
  12. ^ "Enter Hassard Short.". The New York Times. July 25, 1920. p. 66. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  13. ^ Seldes, Gilbert (2001). The 7 Lively Arts. New York: Dover Publications. p. 143. ISBN 0-486-41473-6. 
  14. ^ Ries, Frank W. D. (1983). "Albertina Rasch: The Broadway Career". Dance Chronicle. 6 (2): 95–137. doi:10.1080/01472528208568858. JSTOR 1567635. 
  15. ^ "First Annual Donaldson Awards". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 8 July 1944 – via Google Books. 

Further reading[edit]