Klaw and Erlanger

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Klaw and Erlanger were a theatrical production duo based out of New York City during the early 1900s. With the help of the Theatrical Syndicate, Marc Klaw and A.L. Erlanger were able to monopolize the booking and talent within the vaudeville circuit. As the Syndicate focused attention on the furtherment of vaudeville from its "lowbrow associations by presenting only the finest, class acts," pressure from the Shubert family and accusations of trust building forced the Syndicate to dissolve.[1]

Biographical Information[edit]

Marc Klaw

Marc Klaw was born in Paducah, Kentucky in 1858. He received his law degree from Louisville Law School and practiced law while maintaining a role within the theater industry as a part-time critic.[2] Klaw's employment with the Frohman brothers allowed him to gain recognition within the legal sector of theater, most notably for his work against the unauthorized distribution of Steele MacKaye's "Hazel Kirke." As Klaw's reputation grew, Abraham Erlanger partnered with him to form Klaw and Erlanger as well as a series of subsidiaries including the "Klaw and Erlanger Opera Company" and "Klaw and Erlanger's Costume Company"[3]

Abraham Lincoln Erlanger 1909

A.L. Erlanger was born in Cleveland Ohio in 1860, kick-starting his career in theater as treasurer of the Euclid Avenue Opera House. In his early 20's, Erlanger was hired and performed well for George S. Knight and Joseph Jefferson as a business manager for touring theater companies. Known for his bullish characteristics, Erlanger partnered with Marc Klaw, and formed the second largest theater-booking syndicate in the United States, assuming control of a majority theaters in the Southeast. Throughout his career he was known for underwriting shows such as The Great Metropolis (1889) and producing large numbers such as Pink Lady (1911) and Honeymoon Lane (1926).[2]

Theatrical Syndicate[edit]

The Rogers Brothers in Klaw and Erlanger's "Reign of Error" 1898-99

The Theatrical Syndicate was composed of Charles Frohman, John Zimmerman Sr., Samuel F. Nixon, Al Hayman, Klaw, and Erlanger. In order to monopolize the theater industry, the Syndicate unified their theaters and gave booking duties to Klaw, Erlanger, and Frohman, who in turn standardized the entire booking process. As success of the Syndicate continued, a few key players in American theater including Sam Shubert began to compete through the billing of "independent theater," an appeal that soon broke the Syndicates' playhouse monopoly and began the diversification of Broadway theater.[4]

The Frohman Brothers[edit]

The Frohman brothers, originally from Sandusky, Ohio, implemented a system that allowed theater companies to tour different areas of the United States. Through collaboration with Klaw and Erlanger, Charles Frohman managed the monopolization of all theater booking. In 1912, Daniel Frohman worked with Adolph Zukor to create the Famous Players Film Company, a business that would yield 74 high-grossing motion pictures.[5]

The Shubert Family[edit]

The Shubert Family is credited with the establishment of Broadway and the development of the American theater industry during the early 1900s. Theaters such as the Winter Garden Theater and the Forrest Theater, both of which still operate to this day. Their expansion within the greater New York area included holdings within Buffalo, Utica, Rochester, and Albany, as well as in New York City and Manhattan. Their constant competition with the Theatrical Syndicate ended the monopolization of the theater industry and allowed for the proliferation of operetta and other musical numbers. Notable stars that came through their ranks include Abbot and Costello, Fred Astaire, and Ethel Waters.[6] During the early 1900s, the Shuberts fought the Syndicate monopoly in order to stop "bullying tactics" that allowed the Syndicate to control theater booking, as they controlled most relevant talent at the time. In an unprecedented move, the two theater powerhouses joined forces to work within Advanced Vaudeville, a venture that quickly dissolved once both parties profited.

New Amsterdam Theater[edit]

The New Amsterdam Theater was designed and built in 1903 by Hugh Tallant and Henry Herts. Upon completion, the playhouse was the largest on Broadway with 1,702 seats, billing large production shows such as Ziegfeld Follies. The interior of the building maintains a strong Art Nouveau theme while the exterior is Beaux Arts, lent from European theater's such as the Palais Garnier of Paris. The structure was estimated to cost $2 million, and as production continued, the Frohman Brothers constructed the Iroquois Theater, which later burned to the ground in what some believe to be the worst fire in American history. Great Depression economic woes forced the theater to close, but in 1982 the site was bought and converted into a movie theater by the Shuberts.

Amsterdam Theater - 42nd St. - New York Vity 1905 crop

Collapse of the Syndicate[edit]

The Syndicate pushed the envelope of production and construction of new theaters along the nation's east coast during the early 1900s. In 1903, they expedited the construction of the Iroquois Theater, which some believe to be the reason for the ensuing asbestos fire, which killed 600 attendees, most of them women and children. After the incident, the Syndicate was under heavy legal examination, an issue they resolved unofficially through political donations and indictments of many of the workers at the venue rather than the managers themselves.

Theatres[edit]

Although Klaw and Erlanger primarily booked theatres, they also owned theatres in New York and New Orleans.[7]

New York[edit]

New Orleans[edit]

  • Tulane Theatre
  • Crescent Theatre

Vaudeville Productions[edit]

Title Producer Genre Tour Dates
A Reign of Error Klaw and Erlanger Musical/Vaudeville 1899
The Rogers Brothers in Central Park Klaw and Erlanger Musical/Farce/Vaudeville 1900-1901
A Little Bit of Everything Klaw and Erlanger Musical/Vaudeville 1904
The Rogers Brothers in Paris Klaw and Erlanger Musical/Farce/Vaudeville 1904
The Ham Tree Klaw and Erlanger Musical/Vaudeville 1905

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Schweitzer, Marlis (2012). A Failed Attempt at World Domination (32 ed.). Pleasant Hill: Theatre History Studies. pp. 53–55.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help);
  2. ^ a b Bordman, Gerald (2004). The Oxford Companion to American Theatre. Online: Oxford University Press.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help);
  3. ^ Ingham, John N. (1983). Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders (H-M). Greenwood Press. pp. 724–726. 
  4. ^ Marcosson, Issac F. (1916). Charles Frohman: Manager and Man. New York: Harper and Brothers. pp. 186–188.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help);
  5. ^ "Daniel Frohman". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved November 29, 2014. 
  6. ^ "About Us: The Shubert Brothers". The Shubert Foundation. The Shubert Foundation. Retrieved November 29, 2014. 
  7. ^ Julius Cahn's Official Theatrical Guide. Publication Office, Julius Cahn. 1909.