John Murray Anderson (1886-1954), dance instructor, writer, Broadway producer, was born in St. John's, Newfoundland, on 20 September 1886, the son of Amelia (Murray) and John Anderson. He married Genevieve Lyon of Chicago in 1914. She died of tuberculosis in 1916. They had no children. Anderson died in New York City on 30 January 1954.
Anderson received his early education at Bishop Feild College, St. John's. Like many of his contemporaries from St. John's merchant families, he was sent to Europe to continue his education. He attended Edinburgh Academy and Lausanne University. After graduating from Lausanne, he went to London where he studied voice with Sir Charles Santley and acting with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. In 1909 he returned to St. John's where he spent time collecting antiques along the Southern Shore and other parts of the Avalon Peninsula, before moving to New York City.
In New York, Anderson quickly became involved in theatre, first as a dance instructor, before becoming a writer and producer, particularly of musical comedy and revues. His first play was The World Mother, starring Blanche Bates (1918). Over the next 30 years, he was responsible for over thirty productions, including The Greenwich Village Follies, The Music Box Revue, and Murray Anderson's Almanac. Between 1926-29 he produced fifty-seven miniature revues for Paramount Famous Players Theatres. After the death of Florenz Zeigfeld (1932), he became producer of The Zeigfeld Follies. He also took shows to London and was involved in the 1937 production,The Coronation Revue, staged to celebrate the coronation of King George VI.
For a number of years in the 1920s, in partnership with Robert Milton, Anderson also operated a school of theatre and dance located at East 58th Street in New York City. Some of the graduates of the school were Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Paul Muni and Joan Blondell.
Anderson had a brief involvement with motion pictures. He spent 1929-30 in Hollywood, during which time he was the driving force behind the acclaimed, first all-colour, musical motion picture, The King of Jazz, released by Universal Studios in 1930. The theatre remained Anderson's first love, however, and he returned to it to present live stage productions until shortly before his death. During the 1940s he was involved in the production of a number of circus shows for Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Anderson was a periodic visitor to Newfoundland throughout his life. In the year before his death, Anderson dictated his autobiography, Out without my Rubbers, with his brother, Hugh, as writer.