David Belasco (American, 1853-1931)

Belasco was a powerful theatre producer, director, and playwright. His legacy was cemented when he was the first to adapt Madame Butterfly for the stage and after launching the careers of stars like James O’Neill, Mary Pickford, and Barbara Stanwyck. He also developed new stage lighting and special effects that increased realism. His plays included imagery of spectacular sunsets through the use of colored lighting, as well as concealed lighting as opposed to footlights. He also created several influential theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Belasco worked various jobs as a child in a San Francisco theater and as a young adult in Nevada. He relocated to the East Coast, but brought his knowledge of the West with him. During 1884 and 1930 he wrote, directed, or produced more than 100 Broadway plays, making him the center of the New York City drama scene. Later, more than 40 motion pictures were made from the plays written by Belasco. A founder of cinema, Cecil B. DeMille, was mentored by Belasco and modeled his sets and actor collaborations after the famed producer.