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Brief Biographical / Historical Sketch

Biography

Michael Ellis was born Mayer Ellis Abrahamson, on October 25, 1917, in Philadelphia, to Alexander and Mollie (Fein) Abrahamson. He attended the Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania between the years 1930-1935. Later he attended the University of Grenoble, the Sorbonne, Dartmouth College, and Drew University.

Mr. Ellis first appeared on a professional stage in September 1941 for a stock production of Flight to the West in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Subsequently, he performed in several other productions most notably on Broadway in Finian’s Rainbow. He was also a stage manager on that production, which opened at the 46 Street Theatre on January 10, 1947.

He began producing Broadway productions in the late 1940s. Along with James Russo, he produced The Last Dance. That show opened at the Belasco Theatre on January 10, 1948. Ellis was a stage manager for Magnolia Alley (Mansfield Theatre, April 18, 1949), Alive and Kicking (Winter Garden, January 17, 1950), and the 1951 revival of Diamond Lil starring Mae West. One of his most notable productions was Two’s Company (Alvin Theatre, December 15, 1952) with Bette Davis. That production was Bette Davis' return to Broadway after an absence of 12 years. James Russo was also a co-producer for that show.

Michael Ellis held the position of managing director of Bucks County Playhousein New Hope, Pennsylvania from 1954 through 1964. There, he produced approximately five new productions each season. Among the approximately forty-five new plays he produced, several later opened in New York City: The Champagne Complex, Mask and Gown, Never too Late, The Beauty Part, The Advocate, Barefoot in the Park, and Absence of a Cello. Ellis' production of Come Blow Your Horn was Neil Simon's first play to be performed on Broadway. Mr.Ellis received the Margo Jones Award in 1963 for his contribution in presenting new dramatic works.

Ellis also was managing director of the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from 1973-1976. After 1971, Mr. Ellis resided in Florida and North Carolina. He developed an new interest in magic, and he became an accomplished performer. He was elected to the Board of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1985 and was the group's president from 1990-1991. Mr. Ellis passed away on October 2, 2008.