Sydney Rosenfeld

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Sydney Rosenfeld
Sydney Rosenfeld (1892).png
Sydney Rosenfeld circa 1892
BornOctober 26, 1855
Richmond, Virginia
DiedJune 13, 1931
Years active1874 to 1923
Spouse(s)Genie H. Johnson, m. 1883 (1857-1932)

Sydney Rosenfeld (1855–1931) was an American playwright who wrote numerous plays, and adapted many foreign plays. Close to fifty of his creations played on Broadway.

Some of his better known plays (though none achieved long-lasting popularity) included A House of Cards, The King's Carnival, The Lady, or the Tiger?, The Vanderbilt Cup, The Aero Club, The Senator, Mlle. Mischief, The Mocking Bird, A Man of Ideas, The 20th Century Girl, Jumping Jupiter, and The Optimist.[1][2]


Rosenfeld was born to a Jewish family[3] in Richmond, Virginia in 1855, and came to New York during the American Civil War. He began producing plays in 1874, starting with a burlesque of Rose Michel called Rosemy Shell.[1][4][5] He began writing boy's stories at age 15. He served as the first editor of the English edition of Puck magazine as well as writing for The Sun and the New York World, but left journalism by age 19.[1][6][7]

According to The Chronology of American Literature (2004), Rosenfeld was a "prolific adapter of foreign plays, often accused of plagiarism, who had nearly fifty plays reach Broadway during his career."[8] In 1890, the New York Times stated that Rosenfeld's "habit is to try to dash off an epoch making comedy between breakfast and luncheon," though despite "all his evident carelessness, his lack of application, and his frequently misplaced confidence in his own powers, (he) possesses a gift of originality which Belasco and De Mille either lack altogether or rigorously suppress."[9]

Gerald Bordman's American Music Theatre: A Chronicle describes Rosenfeld as "long a colorful, controversial figure on the American theatrical scene"; "he enjoyed some fame with a few hits and considerably more notoriety with his frequently gadfly behavior." By the mid 1910s, his knack of striking some hits ran dry, though he continued to mount plays until 1923. At the time of his death in 1931, since Rosenfeld had been inactive for a number of years, his "importance to an earlier theatrical world was not universally appreciated."[10] He died with meager wealth; his estate was only reported to be worth $100.[11]

Selected plays[edit]

Laura Hall and Orrin Johnson in the Broadway production of Children of Destiny (1910), adapted for film in 1920


  1. ^ a b c (15 June 1931). Sydney Rosenfeld, Dramatist, Is Dead, The New York Times
  2. ^ The Jewish Encyclopedia, Volume X, p. 476 (1916)
  3. ^ Jewish Daily Forward: "Finding an Audience: Years of Invisibility" by Stuart Klawans April 9, 2004
  4. ^ Hornblow, Arthur. Some Representative American Dramatists, Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly (April 1892), Vol. 33, No. 4, at p. 442
  5. ^ Our American Dramatists, Munsey's Magazine (November 1894), Vol. 12, No. 2, p. 164
  6. ^ Sydney Rosenfeld's Career, The Theatre Magazine (March 1890), Vol. VI, No. 17, p. 299-300
  7. ^ (5 February 1898). Mirror Interviews - Sydney Rosenfeld, New York Dramatic Mirror
  8. ^ Burt, Daniel S. (ed). The Chronology of American Literature, p. 277 (2004)
  9. ^ (26 October 1890). Success at the Gymnase, The New York Times
  10. ^ a b Bordman, Gerald Martin and Richard Norton. American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle, pp. 91, 107, 157 (4th ed. 2010)
  11. ^ (4 May 1932). Writer of Play Hits Left Estate of $100, The New York Times
  12. ^ Traubner, Richard. Operetta: A Theatrical History, p. 133 (2003 ed.)
  13. ^ (16 February 1886). The Casino, The New York Times
  14. ^ (10 April 1888). A Possible Case, The New York Times
  15. ^ Smith, Cecil & Glenn Litton. Musical Comedy in America, p. 44 (1991 ed.)
  16. ^ (20 February 1891). A Lunch for "The Senator", The New York Times
  17. ^ The Dramatic Year Book, p. 359 (1892)
  18. ^ Daly, Joseph Francis The Life of Augustin Daly, p. 589 (1917)
  19. ^ (6 November 1898). May Irwin's Return, The New York Times
  20. ^ Yates, W.E. Theatre in Vienna: A Critical History, 1776-1995, p. 136-37 ("a play about a Hungarian country girl dreaming of success in the theatre in Vienna")
  21. ^ (7 February 1899). Dramatic and Musical, The New York Times
  22. ^ Richardson, Leander.The Month In Theatricals, Metropolitan Magazine (New York), p. 551 (May 1899)
  23. ^ Bauland, Peter. Hooded Eagle: Modern German Drama on the New York Stage, p. 241 (1968)
  24. ^ (19 May 1901). Drama in New York Theaters, Pittsburgh Press
  25. ^ For Playgoing People, The New York Times
  26. ^ Scenes from the Plays, Burr McIntosh Monthly, p. 77 (August 1905)
  27. ^ (22 February 1910). Hifalutin Play by Sydney Rosenfeld, The New York Times
  28. ^ (18 February 1910). Children of Destiny Staged, The New York Times
  29. ^ (18 April 1912). Carle Was Never So Funny Before, Newburgh Journal
  30. ^ (13 February 1912). 'The Opera Ball' Has Great Charm, The New York Times
  31. ^ Pollock, Channing. The Revival of the Fittest, The Green Book Magazine (July 1914), p. 104-06
  32. ^ (6 May 1914). A New Farce Seen At A Disadvantage - Miss Nordstrom Hopelessly Miscast In the Principal Rose of "The Charm of Isabel", The New York Times
  33. ^ (22 February 1918). Rosenfeld Comedy Back - "Under Pressure, Once "The Love Drive," Now at the Norworth, The New York Times
  34. ^ (24 November 1923). Rosenfeld Play Again; "Virginia Runs Away" to Continue When a Theatre Is Obtained, The New York Times
  35. ^ (2 October 1923). "Forbidden" Is Mild; Sydney Rosenfeld's Comedy of a Convent Girl with "Ideas", The New York Times

External links[edit]