This comes from the collections and the Twitter feed of the Museum of the City of New York. Apparently long before "Hamilton: The Musical" (and long before I, ELIZA HAMILTON, too), there was another Broadway smash featuring the Alexander Hamilton. "Hamilton" was a play written by Mary P. Hamlin (described at the time as a "high society matron" who'd long dreamed of writing a play) and popular English actor, playwright, and filmmaker George Arliss. Arliss starred in the production as Hamilton, and the play opened in 1917 to favorable reviews and a respectable run at the Knickerbocker Theatre.
According to Lin-Manuel Miranda, there's another coincidence, too. At the same time that the 1917 "Hamilton" opened on Broadway, another play was also running in a theater down the street. Its name? "The Heights."
Sufficient interest followed for the "Hamilton" play to be made into a film - now called "Alexander Hamilton" - in 1931. The title role was again played by Arliss, who was by this time sixty-three, and more than a bit long in the tooth to be playing Hamilton in his thirties.
The film turns up occasionally on TMC and other movie channels. To modern viewers, it's a curiosity, stiff and dated and overly mannered - especially when compared with the swagger and energy of Lin-Manuel Miranda's interpretation. Still, the earlier version does prove the enduring appeal of Hamilton's story, and it's worth watching just for that reason alone.
Images courtesy of the collections of the Museum of the City of New York. Thanks to Joanne Freeman for her Hamiltonian contribution to this post.
Read more about Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton in my latest historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton, now available everywhere.