Volume III: Biographies


LE SOIR, George

Director (1912)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: George LeSoir was a director with Thanhouser in 1912.

Biographical Notes: George LeSoir, who had 10 siblings, was born at 116 Waverly Place, New York City, and was a direct descendant of Lesueur, the famous painter to the court of Louis XIV in France. His father was a Bonapartist who came to America from France during the Gold Rush era and settled in Greenwich Village, where he set up a business importing delicacies from his native country. George's mother was Irish and was the daughter of a physician. George LeSoir spent his childhood in New York City and enjoyed its pleasures. Years later he recalled that he enjoyed watching the peacocks at a large estate on the corner of 29th Street and Fifth Avenue, and picking fruit from trees in the Delmonico yard at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. His family was closely acquainted with Henry James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and other literary figures.

An early exposure to the stage occurred as a youth when he paid a dime for a balcony seat at Woods' Museum, 30th Street and Broadway, where Joaquin Miller's The Danites was being staged. Not far away young LeSoir visited a nickel show, Dante's Inferno, which he described as "hair raising." George LeSoir was educated in New York City at St. John's University, Fordham, and St. Francis Xavier College, after which he studied at the drama school of Mrs. Henriette Crane. At the Lyceum Theatre School (which later was known as the Academy of Dramatic Arts), the financial affairs of which were managed by Daniel and Gus Frohman, LeSoir was a teacher and was associated with such luminaries as David Belasco, Franklyn H. Sargent (who gave LeSoir a position as secretary, his first paying job), Steele MacKaye, and George Cable.

LeSoir's first stage appearance was in Only a Farmer's Daughter, which went on a 35-week road tour, after which he returned to New York City to become co-founder and co-editor of the original Theatre Magazine, which subsequently experienced many financial problems. Augustin Daly subsidized the venture for a year, but eventually the periodical folded, after which LeSoir was offered the position of stage manager at Daly's Theatre at 30th Street and Broadway. Beginning in the early 1890s, he spent several years as a stage director and confidential secretary for Augustin Daly, until the latter's death in 1899. As Daly's confidante, he visited galleries and auctions to acquire paintings and rare books for his employer's collection. Impressed with LeSoir's business acumen, Daly proposed that the Theatre Magazine be revived as a society publication with a cover price of a dollar. Ada Rehan, one of Daly's leading ladies and a partner with him in two theatres, learned of the project, considered it to be a waste of theatre profits, and persuaded Daly to scrap the idea.

Under Daly, LeSoir managed and directed about two dozen Shakespearean and other classic plays, musical shows and reviews, and other productions. Following Daly's death, LeSoir was hired by Charles Frohman, for whom he appeared in such plays as Richard Carvel, with John Drew, and The Crisis, with James K. Hackett. In 1907 he was engaged by Archie Selwyn to appear in The Goal.

Into Films: George LeSoir's film career began with Pathé, after the French firm set up an American branch in New Jersey. While a director there, he hired Pearl White, a beautiful blonde, who was paid the unheard of salary of $45 per week. For Pathé he was involved with The Society Girl and the Gypsy, the Billy series, and other films. During his tenure with the firm he roved widely and produced films in New York City, London, Paris, and Warsaw. In May 1912 LeSoir was with Kalem, for whom his pictures included The Pilgrimage, The Gent from Honduras, Into the Jungle, the Bucktown series, and others. While with Kalem, he engaged such personalities as Lottie Pickford and Owen Moore. A note in The Moving Picture World, May 18, 1912, noted that George LeSoir had been directing the Kalem players at New Orleans for a number of months and had returned to New York that week. Further: "We understand that he is at liberty for other engagements" - indicating that he must have severed his Kalem connection by that time.

Thereafter, he affiliated with Thanhouser. An article in the July 13, 1912 issue of The Moving Picture World noted that he was a director with Thanhouser, "whose thorough and painstaking work is just beginning to be felt." However, his tenure with the New Rochelle studio was short lived. In 1913 and early 1913 he was stage manager of the Shubert Theatre in Minneapolis. In February of the latter year he was before the footlights at the Shubert in the role of Napoleon, in Victorien Sardou's famous Madame Sans-Gêne. During the 1914-1916 period he spent two years in Russia and produced pictures for Serge Savrasov, from the Russian classic novels of Tolstoi, Pushkin, and others. Titles, some of which were released under the Art Film label, included Crime and Punishment, Marie, The Sea Gull, and A Living Tomb. For his film version of Turgenev's Smoke, he arranged to have the Czar's daughter, Princess Olga, enact a cameo role.

Upon his arrival in Moscow, LeSoir was surprised to find that nearly all the Russian film actors spoke English and French, thus making his adjustment easier than expected. Recollections of his Russian experience appeared in an article in The New York Sun, August 13, 1916, at which time LeSoir was in New York City rehearsing for a new stage play, The Flame. A few months before, in April 1916, he had been engaged as the chief director of Fashion Films, Inc., and to The New York Dramatic Mirror (issue of May 6, 1916) expressed enthusiasm, stating "It is a proposition that should live a lifetime."

In 1916 and 1917 his address was 73 West 12th Street, New York City. In the 1920s George LeSoir was involved with films and also was a familiar figure on the stage. During the Depression in the 1930s, he was with the WPA Federal Theatre and, among other activities, was seen in a farce, Help Yourself, in which he played the harassed president of a bank, and in George Bernard Shaw's On the Rocks.

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Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.