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September 19 - Betty Garde

Happy Broadway Birthday to Betty Garde!

Katharine Elizabeth Garde was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1905. She made her Broadway debut in 1925 with “Easy Come, Easy Go” a farce that also starred Victor Moore and played 180 performances, first at George M. Cohan’s Theatre and then at the Biltmore. She began her motion picture career at the height of the depression and by the time she retired appeared in nearly fifty film and TV projects. In 1931 she was seen at the Fulton Theatre in the comedy “The Social Register” written and directed by Anita Loos and John Emerson. Two years later she was one of “The Best People” at the Waldorf Theatre for 67 performances. During the 1930s she also got involved in radio, frequently working with Orson Welles. Garde was back at the Biltmore in 1939 with “The Primrose Path” directed by George Abbott. It was then that she got cast in a Theatre Guild musical adaptation of “Green Grow the Lilacs” titled “Away We Go!” She would be the first person seen as the curtain goes up on an Okalhoma farm. In Boston tryouts the reviews were decidedly mixed, but the show forged ahead to Broadway under a new title “Oklahoma!” and introduced the world to the new partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Although she had only a few bars to sing, her role of Aunt Eller was substantial. After she left “Oklahoma!” she did only one more show on the Great White Way, “Agatha Sue, I Love You” also staged by Abbott and starring Ray Walston, Renee Taylor, and Corbett Monica. Unfortunately, the critics didn’t love “Agatha Sue” and the show closed after just five performances at Henry Miller’s Theatre (now the Stephen Sondheim.) Garde continued to do film and television projects until she retired in 1971. She died in 1989 at the age of 84.  

with Alfred Drake in “Oklahoma!” (1943)

September 18 - Grayson Hall

Happy Broadway Birthday to Grayson Hall!

Grayson Hall was born Shirley H. Grossman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1922. At the age of 20 she was active in stock and regional theatre. She married in 1946 but divorced three years later. Her first TV appearance was in 1951. She married Sam Hall in 1952, and took his surname. Her Broadway debut came in the revival of “Six Characters in Search of an Author” in 1955 staged by Tyrone Guthrie. Her next show was the musical “Subways are for Sleeping” in 1961. She was joined by Phyllis Newman, Sydney Chaplin, Carol Lawrence, Orson Bean, and Valerie Harper in the chorus. In 1964 she did one of her few feature films, “The Night of the Iguana,” which earned her an Oscar nomination. In 1966 she was part of the ANTA production “Those That Play the Clowns” by Michael Stewart, which closed after just four performances. The following year she got the role that she would be known for, Dr. Julia Hoffman on TV’s gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows.” Her husband was the show’s head writer. She stayed with the time-traveling daytime drama until 1971, also getting to play Magda, Natalie DuPres, and Julia Collins. She followed up by playing Carlotta Drake in the feature film “Night of Dark Shadows.” She came back to Broadway in 1975 with a flop called “The Leaf People” which played just a week at the Booth. Two years later she was in the musical “Happy End” which was also Meryl Streep’s last Broadway show before going on to film stardom. Her final Broadway outing was in “The Suicide” starring Derek Jacobi. She made one more television appearance in 1982 and died three years later of lung cancer.

I’ve always had this old, husky voice. I never was your little itsy-poo 18 or 20-year-old. I was a character actress as a teenager.” ~ Grayson Hall 

September 17 - Dorothy Loudon

Happy Broadway Birthday to Dorothy Loudon!

Dorothy Loudon was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1925. She attended Syracuse University, but left before graduating in order to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She sang in nightclubs and appeared on television as early as 1952. She made her Broadway debut in the 1962 musical “Nowhere To Go But Up” at the Winter Garden. Despite the fact that it lasted just nine performances, she won a Theatre World Award for her debut. It was six years before her second show, the musical revue “Noel Coward’s Sweet Potato” which played 44 performances at two Broadway venues. A few months later she was directed by George Abbott in “The Fig Leaves Are Falling,” a musical by Albert Hague and Alan Sherman. Although it ran a mere four performances at the Broadhurst, she received a Tony nomination and a Drama Desk Award. A teenage David Cassidy was also in the cast making his Broadway debut. Abbott re-hired Loudon for a revival of his play “Three Men on a Horse.” She played the leading role of Edith in a 1973 revival of Clare Booth Luce’s “The Women.” She is perhaps best remembered for originating the role of Miss Hannigan in the hit musical “Annie” in 1977. She won both a Tony and a Drama Desk for the role, outdoing Andrea McArdle in the title role. She left the show to play opposite Vincent Gardenia in Michael Bennett’s “Ballroom.” She also famously replaced Angela Lansbury in the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd.” She shared the stage with Katharine Hepburn in 1981s “The Westside Waltz.” Two years later she received a Drama Desk Award for Ensemble work in “Noises Off,” playing the role of Dotty Otley / Mrs. Clackett. She was one of “Jerry’s Girls” in 1985, alongside Chita Rivera and Leslie Uggams. She was one of four performers in the special limited engagement of the variety show “Comedy Tonight” playing the Lunt-Fontanne for nine performances in 1994. Although she appeared in preview performances of the 2002 revival of “Dinner at Eight,” she left the cast due to medical reasons before opening night. She was diagnosed with cancer and died a year later at the age of 78. Although she was married to Norman Paris from 1971 to 1977, she left no survivors. She acted in very few films, but her final role was in 1997’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

In the scripts I get to do the things I enjoy most — playing comedy and singing. I love my work so much that sometimes I feel guilty being paid for it.” ~ Dorothy Loudon

as Miss Hannigan in “Annie” (1977)

September 16 - Janis Paige

Happy Broadway Birthday to Janis Paige!

Janis Paige was born Donna Mae Tjaden in Tacoma, Washington, in 1922. At the age of five she began singing in local amateur shows. She moved to Los Angeles after graduating from high school and was a singer at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II. She made her film debut in 1944 with the Esther Williams vehicle “Bathing Beauty” as well as “Hollywood Canteen.” She made a total of 17 films in Hollywood before coming East to make her Broadway debut in the Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse play “Remains To Be Seen” at the Morosco. She next tried her hand at television before being offered her first starring role in the musical “The Pajama Game” in 1954. Unfortunately, when the film was made in 1957 everyone from Broadway got to reprise their roles except Paige, whose part went to Doris Day. She got even by starring in the equally successful film musical “Silk Stockings” that same year. She returned to small screen work before her next Broadway appearance, as Doris Walker in the 1963 musical adaptation of “Miracle on 34th Street” titled “Here’s Love.” Despite being by the author of “The Music Man” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” the show ran less than a year. In 1968 she was one of many famous ladies to follow in Angela Lansbury’s footsteps as the lead in the original production of “Mame.” It would be 15 years before her return to the Great White Way, but she stayed busy doing episodic television the whole time. The show was “Alone Together,” a comedy that ran 97 performances at the Music Box in 1984. That was her final role on Broadway, but she returned to the small screen until her most recent appearance in 2001. Today Paige celebrates her 92nd birthday.  

with Eddie Foy, Jr., and John Raitt in “The Pajama Game” (1954)

September 15 - Penny Singleton

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Happy Broadway Birthday to Penny Singleton!

Penny Singleton was born Mariana Dorothy Agnes Letitia McNulty in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1908. She got her nickname from her father, who was a newspaper man, and her surname from her first husband, Dr. Laurence Scogga Singleton, whom she was only married to from 1937 to 1939. She began her show business career when as a child, singing in a silent movie theaters and touring in vaudeville. She made her Broadway debut in 1925 as part of the ensemble of “Sky High,” a musical that ran for more than 200 performances in three different Broadway theatres. Four months later she found herself at the Imperial in the musical “Sweetheart Time.” She left the show just before it closed in order to join the cast of “The Great Temptations,” a musical revue at the Winter Garden. The cast of more than 90 performers included Arthur Treacher and Jack Benny. A year later she was in the collegiate musical comedy “Good News” which introduced the song “Varsity Drag” as well as the title tune. “Good News” ran a remarkable 557 performances at Chanin’s 46th Street Theatre. She repeated the role in the 1930 motion picture, her first feature film. In 1932 she had significantly less success with the revue “Hey Nonny Nonny” performing the provocatively titled “My Nude Ranch With You.” It was then that Singleton was scooped up by Hollywood to play Blondie Bumstead in a film realization of the Blondie and Dagwood cartoon strips. She made 28 “Blondie” films between 1938 and 1950. She married the producer of the films, Robert Sparks, in 1941. They divorced in 1963. In 1962 she created the voice for Blondie-type housewife Jane in “The Jetsons.” She recreated the character when the animated series returned in 1985 as well as in “The Jetsons” movie in 1990. Singleton’s last Broadway outing was as a replacement for the role of Sue Smith in the 1972 Busby Berkeley revival of “No, No, Nanette” She was in retirement from 1990 until her death in 2003 at the age of 95. She left behind two daughters, one from each marriage.  

September 14 - Zoe Caldwell

Happy Broadway Birthday to Zoe Caldwell!

Ada (‘Zoe’) Caldwell was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1933. As a young girl, Caldwell’s mother often took her to the theatre, and she made her stage debut in a local production of “Peter Pan” at the age of nine. She also began doing radio work and left school in order to teach speech and theatre. She worked extensively in Australia and Europe before making her Broadway debut as a replacement for Anne Bancroft in 1965’s “The Devils.” A month after it closed she found herself in “Slapstick Tragedy” and won a Tony and Theatre World Award for her sophomore appearance. Although Vanessa Redgrave played the title role in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” in London, Caldwell won the role for Broadway winning her second Tony Award in a row. The film, of course, went to Maggie Smith. She next played Eve to Bob Dishy’s Adam in Arthur Miller’s flop “The Creation of the World and Other Business.” George Grizzard played the Devil who tempted her to bite the apple. In 1974 she was in the three-hander “Dance of Death” by August Strindberg at Lincoln Center Theatre. Hector Elizondo and Robert Shaw were the other two ‘dancers’. She turned to directing in 1977 with “An Almost Perfect Person” starring Colleen Dewhurst, George Hearn, and Rex Robbins. In 1982 she won her third Tony Award for playing “Medea.” She played opposite Dame Judith Anderson as Nurse, who had played the title role on Broadway in 1947 and 1949. Caldwell again played the title role in “Lillian” a biographical play about Lillian Hellman. In 1988, she returned to directing when the original director of “Macbeth” starring Glenda Jackson and Christopher Plummer passed away. She next staged Jason Robards and Judith Ivey in the two-hander “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard.” She was the first actress to play Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s “Master Class” on Broadway and won herself yet another Tony Award, as did the play and her co-star Audra McDonald. Her most recent appearance on the Great White Way was as one of the ‘Mystery Guest Stars’ during previews for “The Play What I Wrote” in March 2003. Caldwell has done few film and television projects, but some of the more notable are “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985), voice talent in “Lilo and Stitch” (2006) and most recently “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (2011). Caldwell was married to Canadian director / producer Robert Whitehead from 1968 until his death in 2002. She has two sons.

Our job is not to get in the way of the playwright’s words. We’re in big trouble when you hear actors talk about themselves as ‘artists.’ We’re more like priestesses and priests. We take the word from the playwright to the populace. If you don’t get in the way too much, the audience will understand exactly what the playwright wants them to know. If you start bringing your own life into it — saying, “Oh, my God, if I dug deeply enough, I can remember a time when I was so hurt…blah, blah, blah.’ That’s fine. Write your own play.” ~ Zoe Caldwell 

September 13 - Ruth McDevitt

Happy Broadway Birthday to Ruth McDevitt!

Ruth McDevitt was born Ruth Thane Shoecraft in Coldwater, Michigan, in 1895. Although she trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she put her career on hold when she married Patrick McDevitt. When he passed away in 1935, at the age of 40, she returned to acting. She made her Broadway debut in “Straw Hat” which played four performances in 1937. In 1940 she joined Arlene Francis and Hugh Marlowe in “Young Couple Wanted” at Maxine Elliott’s Theatre. She quickly followed that with “Goodbye in the Night” at the Biltmore. The following year she appeared in “Mr. Big” staged by George S. Kaufman and featuring Hume Cronyn and King Kong’s main squeeze Fay Wray. In 1944 she did “Meet the Body” for two dozen performances at the Forrest Theatre. She was also an alternate for the role of Veta Louise Simmons (originated by Josephine Hull) in the long-running comedy hit “Harvey.” In 1949 McDevitt began doing television, guest starring on dozens of shows. In her later years, she was commonly cast as the archetypal ‘old lady’ in such shows as “All in the Family,” “Nightstalker,” and “Gunsmoke.” She also played small roles in such films as “Parent Trap” (1961), “The Birds” (1963), and “Mame” (1974). Back on Broadway, she did her first musical in 1948 with “Sleepy Hollow” which ran just a dozen performances at the St. James. Two years later she was “On Higher Ground” with Patricia Hitchcock and Marian Seldes at the 48th Street Theatre. Kaufman staged and co-wrote “Fancy Meeting You Again” in 1951, which also starred Margaret Hamilton and Walter Matthau. She served as replacement in the hit 1952 comedy “The Male Animal” and was in a City Center revival of “First Lady” that same year. Perhaps her most succesful stage appearance was originating the role of Helen Potts in William Inge’s “Picnic” in 1953. McDevitt starred opposite Paul Newman, Kim Stanley, and Reta Shaw, who shares her birthday today. Unfortunately for McDevitt, her role in the screen adaptation of “Picnic” would go to Verna Felton. She again served as replacement for Josephine Hull in another Kaufman project, “The Solid Gold Cadillac.” “Diary of a Scoundrel” was a Phoenix Theatre production in which McDevitt shared the stage with Roddy McDowall, Robert Culp, Howard DaSilva, Peter Falk, Lorelei Lee, Jerry Stiller, and (once again) Margaret Hamilton. Her penultimate appearance on the Great White Way was in the original production of Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” starring Melvyn Douglas. Her final show was “Absence of a Cello” in 1964. After that, he TV and film commitments kept her busy. She died in 1976.  

September 12 - Irene Dailey

Happy Broadway Birthday to Irene Dailey!

Irene Dailey was born in New York City in 1920. Her older brother Dan also became a performer. From the age of 8 she appeared in vaudeville. She also did stock and regional theatre. Eventually she studied acting with Uta Hagen, later teaching at HB Studios before opening her own acting school in New York. She made her Broadway debut in early 1943 with “Nine Girls,” one of which was Barbara Bel Geddes. “Nine Girls” lasted just 5 performances. Three years later “Truckline Cafe” closed after just 13 sittings, despite starring Marlon Brando and Karl Malden and being staged by Harold Clurman. “Springtime Folly” was just that – closing after just two showings in 1951. Dailey was in yet another brief run with a City Center revival of “Idiot’s Delight” that same year. “The Good Woman of Setzuan” did slightly better with 24 performances at the Phoenix Theatre in late 1956. Hagen played the leading role. Less than a year later she joined Henderson Forsythe [see yesterday’s Birthday Blog] in “Miss Lonelyhearts” at the Music Box. After this twelve-performance disappointment, Dailey decided to give TV a try, making her small screen debut on an episode of “Decoy” in 1958. She continued to do episodic television and soaps until landing the role of Aunt Liz on “Another World” in 1980, a role she played on and off until 1992. Back on Broadway in 1963 she continued her short runs with “Andorra” (9 performances) at the Biltmore. She finally broke through with a clear stage hit in “The Subject Was Roses,” a three character drama also starring Martin Sheen and Jack Albertson. It was named Best Play of 1965 and played 832 performances at five different Broadway venues. Dailey stayed with the show for more than a year. She served as a replacement performer in “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running,” an evening of four plays that lasted more than 750 performances. It was more than two decades before Dailey returned to the Great White Way, as Grandma Kurnitz in Neil Simon’s 1991 memory play “Lost in Yonkers.” Her final role on Broadway was in Roundabout’s 1996 revival of Strindberg’s “The Father” with Frank Langella in the title role. Her film roles were few, but included “Five Easy Pieces” (1970) and “The Amityville Horror” (1979). She won a 1979 Daytime Emmy for her role on “Another World” and was also the recipient of a Sarah Siddons Award and a Drama Desk Award. She died of colon cancer at the age of 88. She never married and had no children.  

with Frank Langella in “The Father” (1996)

September 11 - Henderson Forsythe

Happy Broadway Birthday to Henderson Forsythe!

Henderson Forsythe was born in Macon, Missouri, in 1917. He studied theater at the University of Iowa and served in the Army during World War II. For his very first Broadway show in 1950 he was both director and performer in “The Cellar and the Well” at the ANTA Playhouse. His second appearance didn’t come for seven more years, in “Miss Lonelyhearts” at the Music Box. It played just a dozen performances and featured Ruth Warwick and Irene Dailey, both of whom went on to long careers in TV soaps. Forsythe also started his soap career at that time with a single appearance on “The Edge of Night.” He would later be cast as Dr. David Stewart on “As the World Turns,” a role he would play for more than thirty years. He still had time for Broadway, however, stepping into the role of George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in 1964. The following year he was in the play “The Right Honourable Gentleman” also understudying the lead. He played multiple roles in the short-lived Edward Albee play “Malcolm” in 1966. It ran only seven performances, but eight months later he found himself in yet another new Albee play, “A Delicate Balance.” The following year he was in the original Broadway production of Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party.” He played Jimmy Stewart’s doctor in the comedy “Harvey” in 1970, returning to the ANTA Playhouse for the first time in twenty years. “The Engagement Baby” was a major flop later that year, with the “Engagement” ending four performances after it started at the Helen Hayes. Four years later he was in Brian Friel’s “The Freedom of the City” which only lasted slightly a week at the Alvin. Although it was called “The Texas Trilogy” Forsythe was only seen in two of the three plays which ran at the Broadhurst during the nation’s bicentennial. He did score a third Texas play with his next Broadway show, a musical called “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” The role of tolerant Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd won him his first and only Tony Award. More than a decade passed before his final show on the Great White Way, Lincoln Center Theatre’s “Some Americans Abroad” which also featured Kate Burton [see yesterday’s Birthday Blog]. Forsythe died in 1986 at the age of 88. He was married to Dorothea Maria Carlson since 1942 and they had two sons.

with the original Miss Mona, Carlin Glynn in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (1978)

September 10 - Kate Burton

Happy Broadway Birthday to Kate Burton!

Katherine Burton was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1957. Her father is Welsh-born actor Richard Burton and her mother South African-born producer Sybil Christopher. She attended Brown University majoring in Russian Studies and European history. She also attended Yale School of Drama. She made her Broadway debut in 1982 with the Circle-in-the-Square revival of “Present Laughter” starring George C. Scott. That same year she played the title role in Eva LeGallienne’s adaptation and staging of “Alice in Wonderland.” The production was aired on PBS’s “Great Performances” series. She received a 1983 Theatre World Award for the two plays. This launched a career balancing stage with TV and film work. In 1983 she found herself playing J.J. in the cast of the Broadway musical of Garry Trudeau’s comic strip “Doonesbury.” She played Ian McKellan’s wife when he starred as Platanov in “Wild Honey” an adaptation of Chekhov’s “Platonov” that lasted just 28 performances in 1986. She received a Drama Desk nomination for Lincoln Center Theatre’s “Some Americans Abroad” at the Vivian Beaumont in 1990. She was one of “Jake’s Women” in the hit 1992 play starring Alan Alda. Equally at home in plays and musicals, she was in the Roundabout revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” in 1995. Back at Lincoln Center she was a replacement for Kate Nelligan in Wendy Wasserstein’s “An American Daughter.” She also replaced in 1998’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” Burton received her first Tony nomination playing the title role in a new adaptation of Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” and a second nomination for playing Mrs. Kendal in a 2002 revival of “The Elephant Man.” In 2005 she returned to Roundabout as “The Constant Wife” earning a third Tony nomination. In 2007 she took over playing the adult female roles in the musical “Spring Awakening” which was her most recent appearance on the Great White Way. She has four films coming out over the next year and recently wrapped her third season playing Vice President Langston on TV’s “Scandal” (Emmy nominee). She has been married to Michael Ritchie since 1985 and has two children.

"Basically, I’m part of this large, creative, mildly crazy, loosely connected loving family. But really, these days, who isn’t?" ~ Kate Burton

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