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John Golden

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John Lionel Golden (June 27, 1874 – June 17, 1955) was an American actor, songwriter, author, and theatrical producer. As a songwriter, he is best-known as lyricist for "Poor Butterfly" (1916). He produced many Broadway shows and four films.
John L. Golden was born in New York City on June 27, 1874. He grew up in Wauseon, Ohio and returned to New York when he was fourteen. Golden briefly attended the law school at New York University. He joined a chemical manufacturing firm, where he worked for thirteen years.
Golden began a career as a lyricist. He composed the music for Miss Prinnt, a musical farce in which his friend Marie Dressler starred, that opened in late 1900 in New York City. It was described by the critic Alan Dale as "a ghastly collection of decayed jokes, taphouse slang, meaningless music and direly trashy story..." He contributed lyrics to The Hoyden, a Charles Dillingham production that ran from October 19, 1907, to February 1, 1908. He wrote the music and lyrics for Florenz Ziegfeld's Over the River (1912). This otherwise mundane show, co-produced by Dillingham, was the first in which ballroom dancing appeared on the legitimate stage. Charles Dillingham hired Golden, now well known as a lyricist, to work on his Hip-Hip-Hooray. It opened at the Hippodrome on September 30, 1915, and ran for 425 performances. The show received excellent reviews. Between 1909 and 1921, R. H. Burnside staged many spectacular shows at the Hippodrome. Golden wrote the lyrics for four of these shows in a row.
While they were working for the Hippodrome shows in 1916, Golden and John Raymond Hubbell were asked to create a Japanese-style song. In Golden's autobiography Stagestruck (1930) he recalls creating Poor Butterfly with Hubbell in the summer of 1916. They went down to the elephant pens in the basement of the Hippodrome to find somewhere cool. Hubbell started to play the melody, and the lyrics quickly came to Golden, despite the presence and smell of the beasts. The song is about the central character in Madame Butterfly and was sung by Haru Onuki in The Big Show, which ran for 425 performances at the Hippodrome from August 13, 1916, to September 1917. Poor Butterfly became a smash hit.
Another popular Golden song was Goodbye, Girls, I’m Through.
With the earnings from his songs Golden moved into producing and staging shows. He always avoided anything risqué. His first show was Turn to the Right (1916). It was a hit, as were eight of his next eleven shows. His second show, Lightnin', ran for three years. Lightnin' was co-written by Frank Bacon, who became Golden's partner and co-produced Turn to the Right!. The other writer was Winchell Smith. It was first staged in February 1918. President Woodrow Wilson attended a show with his wife and called Golden to his box, telling him the play was the most entertaining they had ever seen. Lightnin' played for 1,291 performances on Broadway, a record at the time. After Lightnin' closed the cast paraded down Broadway to Pennsylvania Station, where they boarded a train for a tour of the nation. The parade was headed by Mayor John Francis Hylan and Commissioner Grover Whalen.
Other hits were Three Wise Fools, Seventh Heaven, The First Year and Claudia. Golden staged Guy Bolton's Chicken Feed at the Little Theatre in 1923, playing to good audiences. In 1924 he presented Pigs at the Little, another hit. Golden produced Phoebe and Henry Ephron's Three's a Family in 1943 at the Longacre Theatre, the last play staged there until 1953. Three's a Family (1943–44) was Golden's last hit.
The Saphead (1920), a film starring Buster Keaton, was presented by John L. Golden and Winchell Smith in conjunction with Marcus Loew. It was based on The New Henrietta, a 1913 stage hit for which Golden and Smith had been responsible. In 1925 Golden produced the film Thank You, adapted from a play by Winchell Smith and Tom Cushing, directed by John Ford and starring George O'Brien. The film of Lightnin', adapted from Golden's stage success, appeared on October 31, 1930. In 1932 Golden co-produced the film version of Those We Love, starring Mary Astor, Kenneth MacKenna and Lilyan Tashman.
The first John Golden Theater was designed by Harrison G. Wiseman and opened at 202 W. 58th Street, Manhattan, on November 1, 1926. The first show was Two Girls Wanted, which had been playing at the Little Theatre. It was renamed the 58th Street Theater on September 17, 1935. When Golden lost the 54th Street theater he leased the Royale Theater at 242 W. 45th Street and renamed it the Golden Theater. He operated it from 1934-36. The first production was Norma Krasna's Small Miracle in 1934. The theater struggled during the Depression. In 1936 the Shubert brothers took it and changed the name back to the Royale. They leased it to CBS for use as a radio theater.
In 1937 Golden bought the Masque Theatre, which had been designed in 1927 by Herbert J. Krapp for Irwin Chanin and his brother Henry I. Chanin. He renamed it the John Golden Theatre, the third theater in New York named after him. The 800-seat venue at 252 W. 45th Street had its first success under the new name with Shadow and Substance (1938) starring Julie Haydon and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. After mixed success, in mid-1946 the theater became a cinema. It returned to stage performances on February 29, 1948, with a one-man show by Maurice Chevalier and continued to stage a variety of plays and other shows into the 2000s.
During his long career Golden made a fortune from the theater, and gave much in return as a philanthropist. In World War I and again in World War II he organized a service to provide free tickets to servicemen. He was a founder of the Stage Door Canteen and the Stage Relief Fund. Golden was a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the first treasurer of this organization and director from 1914 to 1915. Golden was one of the first board members of the City Center of Music and Drama.
In 1919 John Golden arranged a meeting with fellow producers Fred Zimmerman, Archibald Selwyn, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., Winchell Smith, and L. Lawrence Weber with the goal of cooperating on common issues such as censorship and ticket speculation. He wanted to set up a forum so the producers could share ideas, and wanted to stop the rival organizations from poaching each other's stars. This led to formation of the Producing Managers' Association, which may have inadvertently shown actors the value of organizing into the Actors' Equity Association. Soon after, Equity launched a strike. Golden found himself called a traitor or enemy by actor friends such as Ralph Morgan and DeWolf Hopper. After a month and 37 closed productions and 16 stopped openings, the strike was settled on September 6, 1919. Golden was among the managers at the meeting in the St. Regis Hotel in which the strike was ended. The managers signed a five-year contract in which they recognized Equity and promised better conditions.
Golden was "Shepherd" of the Lambs, a social club for workers in the theatrical professions, from 1942 to 1944. In 1954 he was appointed New York City Chairman for United Nations Day. He was the author of the United Nations All Faith Prayer For Peace.
Golden married Margaret Hesterich in 1909. They moved to Bayside, Queens in 1920. They bought a 15-room house on a 20-acre estate and gave 9 acres for use as baseball diamonds and a children's play center. Golden died at home of a heart attack on June 17, 1955.
Golden left the Bayside estate to the City of New York as a park "for the use and enjoyment by the young people of the community of all races and creeds in a manner similar to that in which I made this property available for recreation and community acts during my lifetime." The John Golden Park was dedicated on October 18, 1965. Speakers at the ceremony included Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr., Robert Moses, Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris, Bernard F. Gimbel (of Gimbels), Frederick O'Neal, Rube Goldberg, Harry Hershfield, and Vincent Sardi Jr. of Sardi's. The John Golden award provides grants to students at the Hunter College Master of Arts in Theatre in New York.
Golden wrote lyrics for many Broadway theatre productions, including:
Popular songs included:
Golden produced many Broadway theatre productions, including:
Golden produced the following films:
In 1937, he received an honorary degree in Doctor of Public Service from Oglethorpe University.