(1867 – November 16
) was a vaudeville theatre owner. He owned Orpheum Circuit, Inc.
Beck emigrated to the United States from Austria
in 1883 with a troupe of actors. He worked as a waiter in a Chicago beergarden then went to San Francisco
with the Schiller Vaudeville Company in the early 1890s. While there Beck became friends with the owner of the San Francisco Orpheum Theater, and when it was bought by Morris Meyerfeld
in 1899 he helped Morris expand by acquiring other theaters. By 1905 Beck was running the organization, which extended from Chicago to San Francisco.
In the spring of 1899, twenty-five-year-old Harry Houdini
met Beck at a beer hall in St. Paul, Minnesota
where Houdini was performing. Beck telegraphed Houdini from Chicago
: "You can open Omaha
March twenty sixth sixty dollars, will see act probably make you proposition for all next season." Houdini wrote at the bottom of telegram, "This wire changed my whole Life's journey."
He built the Palace Theatre
in 1913. Sarah Bernhardt
's performance here may be credited with the early success of this theatre.
Martin Beck Theater
He was voted out of the presidency of Orpheum Circuit, Inc.
after it went public in 1923. Martin then opened the Martin Beck Theater
Orpheum Circuit, Inc. merged with the chain started by Benjamin Franklin Keith
and Edward Franklin Albee II
on January 28
to form the Keith-Albee-Orpheum
He returned to vaudeville in 1932, running the booking office at RKO
, and in 1934 brought the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company to America for the first time.
He died at Mount Sinai Hospital
in Manhattan on November 16
- New York Times; November 17, 1940. Martin Beck Dies; Theatre Veteran; Manager, Producer and Actor, Builder of the Palace, Stricken Here at 71 Began Orpheum Circuit. Headed Variety Group in West for 27 Years -- Came to U.S. as Immigrant at 18. Martin Beck, who built the Palace Theatre, once the goal of all variety actors, and the theatre on West Forty-fifth Street that bears his name, died at 6:30 A.M. yesterday in Mount Sinai Hospital.
- New York Times; November 19, 1940. Theatre Leaders at Beck Funeral; 400 Attend Rites for Founder of Orpheum Circuit and Builder of Palace. Arthur Hopkins Speaks, Eulogizes Producer -- William A. Brady and Lee Shubert Among the Bearers. More than four hundred persons, including some of the leading figures of the American theatre, attended a brief service yesterday in the Campbell Funeral Church, Madison Avenue at Eighty-first Street, for Martin Beck, founder of the Orpheum...