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Finding Neverland - CHARLES FROHMAN

This poster, advertising “Peter Pan” and crediting Charles Frohman as the producer, is from the second production of the play and dates back to 1906-1907. Created by Peter O'Toole Lithograph Company; online via Pinterest.

 

Barrie became friends with the American who produced his plays: Charles Frohman. Together with his two brothers (Daniel and Gustave), Frohman was part of the New York theatrical scene. Some folks called him the "Beaming Buddha of Broadway."

Frohman launched his career (note his name in the lefthand corner of the poster) by producing Bronson Howard's Shenandoah. In 1893, he built the Empire Theater (scroll to the bottom) with Al Hayman and soon was working with the leading dramatists of the day: Oscar Wilde, Somerset Maugham and Arthur Wing Pinero.

It was Frohman who first produced Peter Pan at the Duke of York's Theatre in London.

Although he was part of the reviled Theatrical Syndicate, whose handful of members controlled the best stage productions and nationwide bookings (to the detriment of independent theater owners), Frohman made his deals with a handshake.

He launched the long and successful career of Jerome Kern who composed Broadway tunes for British productions before they opened in America. And, it is said, Frohman was fair to his stars - like Maude Adams who played the role of Peter Pan between 1905 and 1915 (and was the inspiration for Jane Seymour's character Elise McKenna in the movie Somewhere in Time).

Had it not been for Frohman, Maude may never have had the chance to play the famous character. In fact, had it not been for Frohman, Peter Pan may never have become a famous character.

It was Frohman who convinced J.M. Barrie to create a script based on the Peter Pan story from The Little White Bird.  Frohman (who was known for exporting plays between the Old World and the New) had seen the promise of a most improbable stage story. He took a chance on a play about a boy who never grew up.

By 1915, a decade after Peter Pan first opened, Barrie was struggling with a new production called "Rosy Rapture, the Pride of the Beauty Chorus." Imploring Charles to come to London to help him work out issues with the faltering play, Barrie unwittingly played a role in his friend's death.

Germany, at war with Great Britain since the summer of 1914, had issued warnings that crossing the North Atlantic on a British ship would be unsafe. To assist his friend, however, Frohman ignored those warnings and sailed on the Lusitania's ill-fated voyage.

After the ship was torpedoed (on 7 May 1915), and the water was quickly rising, Charles Frohman was standing next to Rita Jolivet, an actress. The ship's rail got closer and closer to the water, but the producer calmly puffed on his cigar. Knowing the ship would soon be gone, Charles faced his likely demise with courage.

Just before a wave swept Jolivet into the ocean, Frohman observed: "Why fear death, it's the greatest adventure of all." He was, undoubtedly, thinking about Barrie's famous line in Peter Pan:

To die will be an awfully big adventure

Jolivet lived to report Frohman's words. Charles was less fortunate. After his body was recovered, it was sent back to New York City where his funeral (at Temple Emanu-el) drew such a crowd that police had to close 5th Avenue.

Frohman wanted to be remembered as "The man who gave Peter Pan to the world and Chantecler  to America." With the release of Finding Neverland, it appears that at least part of his wish has come true.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5123stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Sep 21, 2017


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"CHARLES FROHMAN" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2004. Oct 18, 2017.
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