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David Warfield

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David Warfield

"…tremendously appealing, tender and natural." "His playing is marked throughout by directness, simplicity, understanding, and the economy of means, which in combination spell the great art of acting." NY Times on his performance as Peter Grimm

Warfield, David [née Wollfeld or Wohlfelt] (1866-1951) Stocky and square-faced, this San Francisco born actor and David Belasco’s one male star, began his theatrical career as an usher in that city’s Bush Street Theatre. There his path crossed briefly with David Belasco. In 1888, Warfield acted with a traveling stock company in Napa, CA. With his reputation as a clever mimic, he got the chance to exhibit this talent in a play called About Town where he impersonated Salvini in Othello and Sarah Berhardt in Camille. He went to New York in 1890 and spent his first week at a concert hall on Eight Avenue, where he was spotted by a Broadway manager who hired him along with John H. Russell for The City Directory. In the fall of 1895 he joined the Casino Theatre Company where he soon became a favorite with audiences and remained for three years. It was during this engagement that Mr. Warfield became a specialist in musical parody and made a hit with his long-bearded East Side Jew. In 1899, he left the Casino Theatre to join Weber and Fields where he continued as an eccentric ethnic comic. It came as a surprise in 1901, when that great trainer of "stars", David Belasco approached Warfield to star in a more serious role. It was that of Simon Levi, the Lower East side peddler and auctioneer who inherits money, loses it in a swindle, and later recoups it. The play was The Auctioneer and it became the first in a series of pathetic older parts in which Warfield was always the gentle, slightly humorous, forgiving victim. This first vehicle was followed by Charles Klein’s The Music Master in 1904, where he played Anton von Barwig, a man who searches for his lost daughter. Its record run was a huge success for Warfield, and he played the part for three years. Then for the 1907-08 season at the Stuvesant Theatre, he appeared as Wes Bigelow, the aging Civil War veteran who must reform his adopted son, in A Grand Army Man. Another major triumph came in 1911, with his portrayal of a man who comes back from the dead to settle family matters, in the tile role of The Return of Peter Grimm. For the next eleven years he played in this and in revivals of his earlier successes. In 1922, at the height of his fame, he decided to retire. But before he did, he decided to tackle the one last role he was determined to play, Shylock. The critics were divided and though he toured with it for two seasons, it was one of his rare commercial failures.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

David Warfield in a Jewish specialty at the Boston Theatre (1898)-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (43212 bytes)

David Warfield and Marie Bates in The Auctioneer (1901)-Photo-B&W-Resized,jpg.jpg (96172 bytes)

David Warfield, Fay Templeton & De Wolf Hopper in Fiddle-Dee-De (1900)-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (181577 bytes)

in a Jewish specialty at the Boston Museum 1898 with Marie Bates in The Auctioneer (1901) with Fay Templeton & De Wolf Hopper in Fiddle-Dee-Dee
David Warfield (1866-1951) holding bouquet-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (70891 bytes) David Warfield (1866-1951) in the Music Master-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (66361 bytes) David Warfield as the hero of The Music Master (1904)-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (31333 bytes)
in The Music Master (1904) in The Music Master (1904) in The Music Master (1904)
David Warfield-Postcard-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (43500 bytes) David Warfield in  A Grand Army Man (1907)-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (61422 bytes) David Warfield as Shylock-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (101529 bytes)
in The Music Master (1904) in A Grand Army Man (1907) as Shylock
William Haworth & David Warfield

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