MR. HENRY B. HARRIS: VICTIM OF DISASTER

New York Herald

MR. Wm HARRIS TO CONTINUE THEATRICAL ENTERPRISES LEFT BY SON, HENRY B. HARRIS

What is to be the future of the theatrical enterprises of Henry B. Harris? This question was widely discussed in Broadway last week by men and also by women who had known Mr. Harris as among the leading theatrical producers in America. Only those who are intimate with the friendships which exist in the world of the stage can understand the sorrow and shock to fellow members in the profession caused by the news that Mr. Harris was among the passengers on board the Titanic who perished at sea. The discussion as to his limits of theatrical circles and among playgoers, who in the last twelve years had come to look upon an attraction of Mr. Harris' as possessing distinct features. Careful investigation among business associates and personal friends of Mr. Harris has led to the conclusion that the enterprises which had their beginning in the imagination of Mr. Harris will be carried on according to the orignal design under the division of the manager's father, Mr. William Harris. It is no reflection on the abilities of the younger man to say his father ever was his adviser and supporter and that no small degree of the success of the son was due to his policy of constant consultation with his father. Mr. William Harris was conversant with every phase of the younger man's business. Broad as the business amifications of the son appear to be, they by no means eclipse Mr. William Harris enterprises. In view, also, of the fact that the elder man has been in charge of the affairs of his son during the last eight weeks, while the latter with his wife was aboad on a vacation, it is asserted on good authority that Mr. William Harris will retain his place indefinitely, supervising the arrangements for this season's attractions and carrying out those that the son had projected for next season. What degree of love and admiration Henry B. Harris had for his father may best be shown by recalling one of this season's most interesting incidents. This was the dedication last autumn of the Harris Theatre in West FOrty-second street , whoich was previously called the Hackett. Miss Rose Stahl began her season there in "Maggie Pepper," and the audience was a brilliant one. On the program, appeared these words:

In gratitude to my father, whose influence has shaped my career. I dedicate this theatre. HENRY B. HARRIS

Mr. Henry B. Harris was born "in the business," an incident to which be often proudly referred in after years. At that time his father was appearing in a song and dance act at DeBarr's Opera House in St. Louis with Mr. William Carroll as his partner. In the theatres of the Middle West Master Harris first obtained a glimpse of theatrical life. hen seventeen years old he sold song books in the gallery of a theatre in St. Louis. In every way that a boy might be useful around a playhouse, both in the front and at the back, Master Harris held positions , which for the greater part yielded commisions that allowed him to increase his savings in proportion to his work and ability. When seventeen years old he left the theatrical business to enter a commercial house in Boston, and there eight years later he accepted a position as assistant treasurer of the Columbia Theatre at a salary of $24 a week. Three years later found him the business manager of the playhouse, which was under the control of Messrs, Charles Frohman, Isaac B. Rich and Wiliam Harris. Next the younger Harris, in association with Mr. Charles J. Rich, son of the manager, accomplished a stock company at Howard's mueseum, Boston. FIRST PLAY OF SUCCESS It was in 1894 that Mr. Harris made his first strike as an individual manager and producer, purchasing for $2,500 an interest in "The Widow Jones," with Miss May Irwin as star. The share was sold by the elder Mr. Rich and the other owner was Mr. William Harris. Thus was first established the business association between father and son. At the end of the first season young Mr. Harris had cleared more than $12,000 as his share of teh profits. But success did not come without its failures, and seven years later, or in 1901, Mr. Harris had lost his earnings as a producer, and then became the business manager for the Frohman, Harris and Rich companies. His success in this post led to an offer from Miss Amelia Bingham to go with her as her business manager in "The Climbers," in which he obtained an interest and from this point forward his career was successful, artistically and financially. Mr. Harris was a believer with his father in American drama for Americans. Following his connection with Miss Bingham, he placed Mr. Robert Edeson under contract to star, and then engaged Mr. Augustus Thomas, the playwright, to dramatize Mr. Richard Harding Davis' "Soldiers of Fortune." This all-American combination was highly successful, and was followed by the engagement. Mr. George Heye, the real estate man, became highly interested with Mr. Harris in the suldiny of the beautiful Hudson Theatre in West Forty-fourth street. Subsequently Mr. Harris became the sole owner. The theatre was opened in 1903 with Miss Ethel Barrymore in "Cousin Kate." HIS NOTED PRODUCTIONS His next great success came two years later, in 1905, when, after trying to dispose of the play elsewhere, Mr. Charles Klein handed to Mr. Harris the manuscript of "The Lion and the Mouse." It was an instantareous hit, running in New York for more than a year, and elsewhere presented by several companies for two or three seasons. In a recent article in a weekly publication Mr. Harris stated that his profits from "The Lion and the Mouse" exceeded a quarter of a million dollars. He stated further that a producer who succeeds in placing before the public one play they will support can more than pay his losses on eight unsuccessful productions. Following "The Lion and the Mouse" came Mr. James Forbes' play "The Chorus Lady," in which Miss Rose Stahl, for her impersonation of Maggie O'Brien, is known from coast to coast. IT is stated that when Miss Stahl made her first appearance in the play in New York the theatre at which she played was under lease to some other manager than Mr. Harris. After the first two weeks of the run, looking around unsuccessfully for a playhouse in whihch to present his star, Mr. Harris negotiated for the purchase of the Hackett Theatre in Forty-second street. Here Miss Stahl played "The Chorus Lady" for two seasons. To mention each of these early successful productions would be interesting, for they are still fresh in the minds of the American playgoer. In 1908 Mr. Harris had so far extended his business that he had six acknowledged stars under contract and eleven plays on tour. Mr. Edeson, in "Strongheart," was one of these. Miss Elsie Ferguson, in "Such a Little Queen," was another. HAD SHARE OF FAILURES Predictions made by other managers that Mr. Harris' good fortune could not conduct seemed to have some basis, when, two years ago, according to his own statements in the article referreed to, he produced thirteen successive failures. Last season he was more successful, although his interst in the Folles Bergere, in West Forty-sixth street, proved expensive. AFter seven months the Folles Bergere project was abondoned and Mr. Harris took over exclusively the lease of the playhouse, renaming it the Fulton. In the season now drawing near to a close Mr. Harris made several productions. Some have ben failures, others successes. The ratio is less than that specified by Mr. Harris. Among them were Mr. Frank McIntyre in "Snobs," at the Hudson Theatre: Miss Elsie Ferguson in "The First Lady in the Land," at the Gaiety and later the Fulton; Miss Rose Stahl in "Maggie Pepper," at the Harris' Mr. Robert Edeson in "The Cave Man," at the Fulton; "The Quaker Girl," with Mr. Clifton Crawford, at the Park; Miss Dorothy Donnelly and Mr. Edmund Breese in "The Right To Be Happy," at the Hudson, and Mr. Edgar Selwyn in "The Arab," at the Lyceum and later at the Astor. "The Talker" is now at the Harris. Besides these Mr. Harris presented on the road this season three companies playin gm.r Selwyn's "The Country Boy," one company in "The Travellling Salesman" and on presenting "The Commuters." Miss Ruth St, Denis, the dancer, was under his direction. A friend of Mr. Harris related yesterday an incident of the manager's faith in his udgment and his companies once he cwas convinced that success would come, even if it were delayed. One of his stars appearing this season on the road without much encouragement from the public wrote to Mr. Harris asking that the tour be abandoned because it appeared to be a financial loss. Mr. Harris replied: "Cannot think of giving up. Perhaps they aren't coming to see you now, but they will. We'll get it all back." LEAVES LARGE ESTATE To estimate the value of the estate left by Mr. Harris was too difficult during the last week. It is known that he had interests outside of the theatrical business. As to some of his theatrical holdings, however, the chief ones aside from his ownership of the rights of more than thiry-five plays, were the Hudson and Harris theatres, which he owned outright. He held the lease to the Fulton and to the Grand Opera House, in New Haven, which in turn had been sublet. He also held the lease of the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia. It is generally believed that Mr. Harris was intersted in the Park Theater, but this is incorrect, the playhouse being controlled by Messrs. Frank McKee and William Harris. With these men Mr. Harris was interested in "The Quaker Girl," the attracton at the Park, which has been the musical comedy hit of the present season in New York. Two companies of "The Quaker Girl" will be presented on the road next season, and Mr. Harris, before leaving for Europe, arranged that Mr. Clifton Crawford would be starred in another musical comedy. Some other tentative projects for the coming season are two companies in "The Talker" and the production of tnew plays by Messrs. Edgar Selwyn, George Broadhurst, Mrs. Marlon Fairfax and other playwrights.

Related Biographies:

Henry Birkhardt Harris

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    Copyright © 1996-2019 Encyclopedia Titanica (www.encyclopedia-titanica.org) and third parties (ref: #2565, published 18 March 2003, generated 19th January 2019 09:21:10 PM)
    URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/item-2565.html