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Augustin Daly

John Augustin Daly (July 20, 1838 – June 7, 1899) was an American theatrical manager and playwright active both in the U.S. and UK.


Daly was born in Plymouth, North Carolina and educated at Norfolk, Va. and in the public schools of New York City.

He was dramatic critic for several New York papers from 1859, and he adapted or wrote a number of plays, Under the Gaslight (1867) being his first success. In 1869 he was the manager of the Fifth Avenue Theatre, and in 1879 he built and opened Daly's Theatre in New York, and, in 1893, Daly's Theatre in London.

At the former he gathered a company of players, headed by Ada Rehan, which made for it a high reputation, and for them he adapted plays from foreign sources, and revived Shakespearean comedies in a manner before unknown in America. He took his entire company on tour, visiting England, Germany and France, and some of the best actors on the American stage have owed their training and first successes to him. Among these were Clara Morris, Sara Jewett, John Drew, Jr., Maurice Barrymore, Fanny Davenport, Agnes Ethel, Maude Adams, Mrs. Gilbert, Tyrone Power, Sr., Ada Dyas, Isadora Duncan and many others. Daly's willingness to, as he put it, "stoop to the curb and bestow upon the low, untried actor a chance at greatness" earned him the nickname "Little Man Auggie" among his peers. His play Leah the Forsaken, adapted from the Deborah of Hermann Salomon Mosenthal, was a star vehicle for Margaret Mather.

His Shakespeare productions were often severely criticized by George Bernard Shaw, who was active as a drama critic during those years. Shaw took Daly severely to task for cutting Shakespeare's plays and for presenting them in unorthodox ways, such as making Oberon, King of the Fairies, a woman in Daly's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. (Shaw was a strong believer in presenting Shakespeare's plays uncut.) Several of Shaw's criticisms of Daly's Shakespeare productions were reprinted in the anthology Shaw on Shakespeare. [1]

Daly was a great book-lover, and his valuable library was dispersed by auction after his death, which occurred in Paris. Besides plays, original and adapted, he wrote Woffington: a Tribute to the Actress and the Woman (1888).


Under the Gaslight
Under the Gaslight is famous as the play that introduced the cliched "thrill" device of having the villain tie someone to the railroad tracks -- only in this case, it was the hero who was lashed to the tracks, and the heroine who ultimately saved him.2



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