James, David (DNB01)

JAMES, DAVID (1839–1893), actor, whose real name was Belasco, born in London in 1839, made his first appearance in a subordinate part at the Princess's theatre under Charles Kean. He is first recognisable at the Royalty, where on 28 Sept. 1863 he was the first Mercury in Mr. Burnand's burlesque of ‘Ixion.’ The following year he was at the Strand, where he played in burlesque, and on 28 Oct. was the first Archibald Goode, a young lover in Craven's ‘Milky White.’ Tom Foxer in Craven's ‘One Tree Hill’ followed. In Mr. Burnand's ‘Windsor Castle’ he was Will Somers. Other parts of little importance succeeded, and on 15 June 1867 he was the first Joseph in ‘Our Domestics,’ (‘Nos Domestiques’). His reputation rose with his performance on 5 Feb. 1870 of Zekiel Homespun in a revival of the ‘Heir at Law.’ Two months later, in partnership with Henry James Montague [q. v.] and Thomas Thorne, he undertook the management of the Vaudeville, but was unable to appear in the opening performances. On 4 June 1870, at the Vaudeville, he played Mr. Jenkins in Albery's ‘Two Roses,’ was the original John Tweedie in ‘Tweedie's Rights’ on 27 May 1871, and Bob Prout in ‘Apple Blossoms’ on 9 Sept. He played Sir Benjamin Backbite in ‘School for Scandal’ and Goldfinch in the ‘Road to Ruin’ with brilliant success, Sheridan's masterpiece being given over four hundred times. He was the original Sir Ball Brace in Albery's ‘Pride’ on 22 April 1874, and ‘the retired butterman,’ Perkyn Middlewick, in ‘Our Boys’ on 16 Jan. 1875. This was his greatest success, and the piece was played for over a thousand times; it was not removed from the playbills until 18 April 1879, and was claimed as ‘the largest run on record.’ On 19 April 1879 he was the first Plantagenet Potter in ‘Our Girls,’ on 29 Jan. 1880 the first John Peddington in Mr. Burnand's ‘Ourselves,’ and on 8 March Smallrib in Charles Wills's ‘Cobwebs.’ James was the first Edward Irwin in Albery's ‘Jacks and Jills’ on 29 May, Macclesfield in E. G. Lankester's ‘The Guv'nor’ on 23 June, and Professor Mistletoe in Byron's ‘Punch’ on 26 May 1881. After, the partnership between James and Thorne had come to an end, James played at the Haymarket Lovibond in the ‘Overland Route’ and Eccles in ‘Caste.’ In 1885 he undertook the management of the Opera Comique, playing Blueskin in ‘Little Jack Sheppard,’ and Aristides Cassegrain in the ‘Excursion Train.’ In 1886 he was at the Criterion playing John Dory in ‘Wild Oats,’ Simon Ingot in ‘David Garrick,’ Matthew Pincher in ‘Cyril's Success,’ and his old part in ‘Our Boys.’ At the Criterion he was also the first Townely Snell in the ‘Circassian’ on 19 Nov. 1887, and Rev. Dr. Jeremie Jackson in 'Miss Decima' on 23 July 1891. He took part in 1893 in revivals at the Vaudeville of 'Our Boys' and 'The Guv'nor.' He was also seen as Moses in 'School for Scandal' and Samuel Coddle in 'Married Life.' He died on 2 Oct. 1893.

James was an admirable comedian in parts in which ripeness and humour were requisite. In John Dory, Perkyn Middlewick, Macclesfield, and other characters in which cheeriness and unction were requisite, he had no equal, and scarcely a rival or a successor. His Tweedie in 'Tweedie's Rights' was a marvellous piece of acting.

[Personal recollections; Pascoe's Dramatic List; The Theatre, various years; Scott and Howard's Blanchard; The Dramatic Peerage; Era Almanack, various years; Sunday Times, various years.]

J. K.