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October 20 - Bela Lugosi

Happy Broadway Birthday to Bela Lugosi!

Bela Lugosi was born Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko in Lugos, Transylvania, Hungary, in 1882. He left school at the age of 12 and began stage acting in his native Hungary around 1902. He was a member of the National Theatre of Hungary and served his country during World War I. His screen debut came in 1917 doing a series of films in his homeland. He came to America as a merchant seaman and took the name Lugosi in honor of his home town. He relocated to New York City and was part of a Hungarian theatre troupe that toured the East Coast. He made his Broadway debut in 1922 with “The Red Poppy” at the Greenwich Village Theatre (the boundaries of the Broadway theatre district had not been defined at the time). The play also starred Estelle Winwood. He then did his first US film, “The Silent Command” in 1923. On his birthday in 1925 he opened on Broadway in “Arabesque,” a middle-eastern play with music at the National Theatre. Five weeks after it closed, he opened in “Open House,” a comedy at Daly’s 63rd Street Theatre. He continued doing small film roles until returning to the Broadway stage in the “Devil in the Cheese” alongside Frederic March. It ran 157 performances at the Charles Hopkins Theatre. In 1927 he was approached to play the role that would change his life, the title role in a stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” The play was a hit, running 261 performances at the Fulton Theatre. Although Hollywood producers wanted Lon Chaney to play the role on film, Lugosi won the part in the 1931 movie. Ironically, his “Devil in the Cheese” cast-mate March also appeared in the title role of a 1931 horror film classic, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Lugosi would do 60 more Hollywood films, most all in the horror genre. In 1933 he found time to return to Broadway in Earl Carroll’s “Murder at the Vanities,” but this would be his final appearance on the Great White Way. Lugosi died in 1956 during the filming of Ed Wood’s low-budget “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (widely regarded as the worst film in cinema history) and his remaining scenes were filmed by Mrs. Wood’s chiropractor holding a cape over his face. Lugosi was buried wearing his Dracula cape. Despite many portrayals of the Count since, Lugosi’s portrayal of the blood thirsty Dracula has become iconic, including his reading of the line “I don’t drink…wine.” He was married five times and had one son, also named Bela Lugosi.

Every actor’s greatest ambition is to create his own, definite and original role, a character with which he will always be identified. In my case, that role was Dracula.” ~ Bela Lugosi

with Edward Van Sloan in the stage adaptation of “Dracula”

October 19 - Annie Golden

Happy Broadway Birthday to Annie Golden!

Annie Golden was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951. Her first Broadway show was as a member of the tribe in a short-lived revival of “Hair” in 1977. Two years later she made her screen debut in the Milos Foreman film of “Hair.” Her first appearance off-Broadway was as a replacement for Audrey in the original “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Orpheum Theatre. She filled her time as a singer in the band The Shirts until she returned to the stage in the juke box musical “Leader of the Pack” first off-Broadway and then on the Rialto in 1985. That year she also returned to the big screen with Madonna in “Desperately Seeking Susan.” In 1985 she also started working on television with an episode of “Hometown.” She starred with Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards in “Ah, Wilderness” at the Neil Simon Theatre in 1988. On the tube she played a recurring character on “Cheers” from 1989 to 1992. The finally returned to the Great White Way in 1998 in a revival of “On the Town” playing Lucy Schmeeler. The show had transferred from the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. In 2000 she originated the role of Georgie Bukatinsky in the “The Full Monty.” She returned to “Hair” in 2004 with a special one-night-only benefit at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Golden continued doing episodic television until 2007 when she understudied several roles in “Xanadu.” Most recently she was seen in the ensemble of “Violet” starring Sutton Foster. She currently plays the role of silent Norma on the TV hit “Orange is the New Black.”  

October 18 - Miriam Hopkins

Happy Broadway Birthday to Miriam Hopkins!

Ellen Miriam Hopkins was born in Bainbridge, Georgia, in 1902. She attended Goddard College in Vermont and Syracuse University in New York, but graduated from neither. Instead she went to New York City where she made her first Broadway appearance in “The Music Box Revue of 1921” featuring music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. A year later she was in her first book musical “Little Jessie James” singing the show’s opening number with Allen Kearns. In 1925 she was in the melodrama “Puppets” sharing the Selwyn’s stage with (what else) puppets. Also that year she was in the three act play “Lovely Lady” at the Belmont. 1926 brought “An American Tragedy” adapted from the novel by Theodore Dreiser, proving that Hopkins was more than just a chorus girl. Back at the Selwyn she was in “The Garden of Eden” which actually took place in Paris. She returned to the musical stage with “Excess Baggage” which had lyrics by DaSylva and Brown. With “Excess Baggage” under her belt she took “Flight” at the Longacre at the start of 1929. “The Camel Through the Needle’s Eye” closed just as the stock market crashed in October 1929. In 1930 she not only did her first feature film but also two Broadway shows: “Ritzy” at the Longacre and “Her Majesty’s Car” at the Ethel Barrymore. During her career in Hollywood she appeared in 35 films, nominated for an Oscar in 1936 for playing the title role in “Becky Sharp.” Back on Broadway she appeared in “Anatol” (1931) and “Jezebel” (1933). She stepped into the role of Sabina vacated by Tallulah Bankhead in the original production of Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth” in 1942. She was also in “The Perfect Marriage” with Victor Jory onstage at the Ethel Barrymore. Offstage her marriages were far from perfect. Hopkins was married and divorced four times. Before she married her third husband she adopted a son, Michael. In 1947 she had a short 5-performance run in “Message for Margaret” at the Plymouth. Her final Broadway appearance was stepping into the role formerly played by Jo Van Fleet in the hit play “Look Homeward, Angel” in 1959. Ten years earlier she had started to act on television, culminating ten years later with an appearance on “The Flying Nun.” Hopkins died of a heart attack just nine days before her 70th birthday in 1972.

TV is the toughest medium because there’s more strain, but the theatre requires the most work. Movies are the easiest. You can sip coffee between takes.” ~ Miriam Hopkins

May 27, 1935

October 17 - Paxton Whitehead

Happy Broadway Birthday to Paxton Whitehead!

Paxton Whitehead was born in East Malling, in Kent, England, in 1937. At the age of 17 he went to London to begin his training. He then began acting in touring companies and regional rep until he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1958. After directing off-Broadway in 1961, he made his first appearance on the Great White Way the following year in “The Affair” a play set at Cambridge College. He next replaced Jonathan Miller in “Beyond the Fringe,” joining Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett, and Peter Cook in their comedy revue. On the other side of the footlights, Whitehead served as Artistic Director of Canada’s Stratford Festival for a decade, starting in 1967. In 1970 he co-starred with Celeste Holm and her husband Wesley Addy in Shaw’s “Candida” at the Longacre. It lasted only a week. As a writer, he co-adapted the National Theatre of Canada’s production of Feydeau’s “There’s One in Every Marriage” which opened at the Longacre on Boxing Day 1971 and ran for just two weeks. He continued adapting Feydeau with a 1973 production of “Chemin de Fer” at the Longacre. He played Canon Throbbing (!) in Bennett’s “Habeas Corpus” in 1975. He played sleuth Sherlock Holmes in “The Crucifer of Blood” and has re-visited the role in other plays since. He earned a Tony and Drama Desk nomination for playing bumbling King Pellinore in a 1980 revival of “Camelot” starring Richard Burton and Christine Ebersole. Specializing in farce, he was a natural to be part of the original Broadway company of “Noises Off.” He won a Drama Desk Award for playing Frederick Fellowes in the chaotic play within the play. He worked with master farceur Ray Cooney on “Run For Your Wife” which Cooney wrote, acted in, and directed in 1989. Whitehead would do more Cooney farces at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. Another British playwright he interpreted was Tom Stoppard in his 1989 play “Artist Descending a Staircase.” He shared the stage with Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack as “Lettice and Lovage” (respectively) when the Peter Shaffer comedy played the Ethel Barrymore in 1990. He served as dramaturg and star for Tony Randall’s National Theatre of Actors production of Feydeau’s “A Little Hotel on the Side” in 1992. He played Pickering to Richard Chamberlain’s Higgins in the 1993 revival of “My Fair Lady,” one of his few musicals. He later assumed the role of Higgins when Chamberlain left the show. He finally got to play Ayckbourn on Broadway with Manhattan Theatre Club’s revival of “Absurd Person Singular.” He has since done several plays by Sir Alan at Connecticut’s Westport Country Playhouse. His most recent sighting on the Rialto was as Reverend Chasuble in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” in 2010. The play was taped for television. Speaking of the small screen, Whitehead has been a series regular in “Marblehead Manor” (1987), “Simon” (1995), “Ellen” (1995), and “Mad About You” (1992) playing neighbor Hal Conway. His film credits include “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Back To School,” both in 1986.  

with Dana Ivey in “The Importance of Being Earnest” 

October 16 - Angela Lansbury

Happy Broadway Birthday to Angela Lansbury!

Angela Brigid Lansbury was born in Regents Park, London, in 1925. Her mother was the actress Moyna MacGill. She studied music and acting at an early age and made her first stage appearance in “Mary of Scotland” while still at school. During World War II her she and her family immigrated to the United States, where she continued her study of dramatics. A devoted fan of motion pictures, she first appeared in the hit films “Angel Street” (1944), “National Velvet” (1944), “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (alongside her mother in 1945), and “The Harvey Girls” (1946). Both “Angel Street” and “Dorian Gray” earned her Oscar nominations. She made her television debut in 1950 and it was this medium that would allow her to create the feisty character of Jessica Fletcher in “Murder She Wrote” (1984). Her introduction to Broadway came in 1957 with the Feydeau farce “Hotel Paradiso.” Three years later she was seen with Joan Plowright and Billy Dee Williams in “A Taste of Honey.” Back in Hollywood she was nominated for another Oscar for her deadly serious turn in “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962). Her first brush with Sondheim and musical theatre came in the form of “Anyone Can Whistle,” an ambitious project that lasted just nine performances in 1964. If “Whistle” was a flop, then her next musical more than made up for it - she played the eponymous bon vivant in Jerry Herman’s “Mame.” The show would earn her the first of her five Tony Awards. “Dear World,” another Herman musical, followed in 1968 and earned her Tony number two. She scored her third for a revival of “Gypsy” in 1974. For the only time in her Broadway career, Lansbury stepped into the role of Mrs. Anna in a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” in 1978. Another iconic musical role was Mrs. Lovett in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” and naturally she won yet another Tony for playing the amoral pie baker. She recreated the role in Los Angeles, when the musical was filmed for television. She stepped away from musicals in 1982 for “A Little Family Business” which did little business at the box office and went out of business after just 13 performances at the Martin Beck. Undaunted, a few months later she launched a revival of her “Mame” at the same theatre as her “Sweeney” success and featuring many of the same players from the original. Unlike the original, however, it failed to woo theatergoers and closed after just 41 performances. It was nearly a quarter of a century before she came back to Broadway, this time in the play “Deuce,” playing opposite the recently departed Marion Seldes. In addition to television fame as a New England detective, before her return she also did voice work on the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast,” singing the title song as well. In 2009 she was featured as the medium Madame Arcati in a revival of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.” Another Tony Award was her reward. Returning to the work of Sondheim, she played the wise Madame Armfeldt in a revival of “A Little Night Music” in 2009. Tony and Drama Desk nominations followed. Her most recent appearance on the Great White Way was in a revival of “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man” in 2012. Away from Broadway she was in the passenger seat as Daisy Werthen in “Driving Miss Daisy” in Australia, where it was filmed for broadcast to cinemas worldwide. In December she will once again play Madame Arcati in an American tour of “Blithe Spirit.” She was granted an honorary Academy Award for creating some of cinema’s most memorable characters and inspiring generations of actors. This year she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth.

"I’m eternally grateful for the Irish side of me. That’s where I got my sense of comedy and whimsy. As for the English half–that’s my reserved side. But put me onstage, and the Irish comes out. The combination makes a good mix for acting." ~ Angela Lansbury

as Nellie Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” (1979)

October 15 - Linda Lavin

October 15 – Happy Broadway Birthday to Linda Lavin!

Linda Lavin was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1937. Haling from a musically talented family, her mother was an opera singer. She was onstage by the age of five. Lavin graduated from William and Mary College, obtaining her Equity card even before her diploma. In 1962 she made her Broadway debut in the musical comedy “A Family Affair” starring Shelley Berman and Eileen Heckart. It featured music and lyrics by William Goldman and John Kander and was directed by Harold Prince. The following year she made her television debut in an episode of “The Doctors and the Nurses.” It was this medium that would make her a household name in 1976 with “Alice.” That same year back on Broadway, she was seen with Sylvia Miles in the New York-set “The Riot Act” at the Cort Theatre. Three years passed before she was back in the musical “It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman” at the Alvin. A few months after “Superman” was grounded, she was in “Something Different” (literally) a farce written and staged by Carl Reiner at the Cort. In the intervening time she was Gloria Thorpe in a televised version of “Damn Yankees.” “Cop-Out” was a 1969 two-hander double-bill in which she starred with Ron Liebman. It lasted only a week. She finished out the decade in Neil Simon’s “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers” with Doris Roberts, Marcia Rodd, and James Coco. Lavin was nominated for a Tony for her work in the hit comedy. She left the show and joined the company of “Paul Sills’ Story Theatre,” a collection of folk tales at the Ambassador. Ironically, she replaced Valerie Harper, who would later have her as a guest star on a 1974 episode of her TV series “Rhoda.” Lavin’s last Broadway credit before sitcom fame was the flop “The Enemy Is Dead,” which closed on opening night in January 1973. She didn’t return to the Rialto until 1983, when Neil Simon sought out an all-Jewish cast for his final entry in the “Brighton Beach” trilogy titled “Broadway Bound.” She won both a Tony and a Drama Desk for playing Kate Jerome, mother of the trilogy’s Simon stand-in, Eugene. To much acclaim, she replaced “Cagney and Lacey” star Tyne Daly in a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Gypsy” in 1990. Not afraid of replacement work, in 1994 she stepped into the pumps of Madeline Kahn as Gorgeous in “The Sister’s Rosensweig.” She portrayed yet another strong Jewish woman in the 1998 revival of “The Diary of Anne Frank” starring Natalie Portman. She was honored with Tony and Drama Desk nomination for playing Mrs. Van Daan. The same honors were accorded her for originating the role of Marjorie Taubman in Charles Busch’s “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” in 2000. She played a fictionalized version of Carol Burnett’s inspirational grandmother in a dramatization of her memoirs titled “Hollywood Arms.” In 2002, she and Sara Paulson (“American Horror Story”) told “Collected Stories” which earned her yet another Tony nomination. Returning to the Cort after nearly 50 years, he most recent Broadway entry was as the matriarch of “The Lyons” in the Nicky Silver play. Earlier this year she played Lorna on the now-cancelled TV series “Sean Saves the World” starring Sean Hayes and will be seen next week in a two part episode of “The Good Wife.” She is currently filming “The Intern,” a film about a fashion website that hires an elderly intern.

You must tap into your own fears and pains and anxieties. And you remember. Dreams come up and nightmares come up. Once you get the understanding of the feelings, you describe them with behavior. That’s how I work. I don’t speak for anyone else.” ~ Linda Lavin on her acting method

October 14 - Lillian Gish

Happy Broadway Birthday to Lillian Gish!

Lillian Diana Gish was born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1893. Her sister Dorothy was born in 1898 and also went into show business. They relocated to Illinois and her first brush with the industry was helping her mother sell candy to the neighboring Majestic Theatre. She also acted in school plays. Through an introduction by Mary Pickford, she and her sister met D.W. Griffith, and between 1912 and 1913 she had made more than 30 short films. But before she was dubbed ‘The First Lady of American Cinema’ she made her Broadway stage debut in “A Good Little Devil,” a David Belasco production at the Theatre Republic that also starred Pickford. She then concentrated on her film career, not returning to Broadway until 1930 when she starred in “Uncle Vanya” for Jed Harris. Two years later she returned to play the title role in “Camille” at the Morosco. She was seen in “Nine Pine Street” in 1933 and Philip Barry’s “The Joyous Season” in 1934. Also that year, she was with a large cast in Sean O’Casy’s “Within the Gates.” She played Ophelia to John Gielgud’s “Hamlet” under the direction of Guthrie McClintic in 1935. She worked for McClintic again two years later in “The Star-Wagon” co-starring Burgess Meredith. She finished the decade at the Broadhurst in the unlikely titled “Dear Octopus.” Still balancing her film work with the stage, she only appeared on Broadway twice during the 1940s. She was wife to “Mr. Sycamore” in 1942 and re-teamed with Gielgud for “Crime and Punishment” in 1947. The 50s saw her in “The Curious Savage” (1950), as Carrie Watts in the original “The Trip to Bountiful” by Horton Foote (1953), and in T.S. Eliot’s “Family Reunion” (1958). She began the 1960s starring with Colleen Dewhurst in “All the Way Home” and continued in Shaw’s “Too Good To Be True” featuring a stellar cast consisting of Cedric Hardwicke, Glynis Johns, Eileen Heckart, Robert Preston, Cyril Ritchard, and David Wayne. Her only musical on the Great White Way was playing the Dowager Empress in 1965’s “Anya” the story of the Princess Anastasia. It ran just a fortnight at the Ziegfeld Theatre. In 1968 she was in the Robert Anderson drama “I Never Sang for My Father” at the Longacre. Her penultimate Broadway show was a return to Chekhov with “Uncle Vanya.” This time, however, some 43 years later, she played Maryina, the nanny. Oddly, her last Broadway sighting was in a revue, “A Musical Jubilee” at the St. James in 1975. Gish continued to act in TV and feature films, with her last screen appearance in “The Whales of August” in 1987. She died in 1993, just eight months shy of her 100th birthday and was interred beside her sister Dorothy (who passed away in 1968) at Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City. She was given an honorary Oscar in 1971 for ‘superlative artistry and for distinguished contribution to the progress of motion pictures.’ Gish never married or had children, instead devoting herself to her career.

I’ve never been in style, so I can’t go out of style.” ~ Lillian Gish

October 13 - Lily Langtry

October 13 – Happy Broadway Birthday to Lily Langtry!

Lillie (sometimes spelled Lily) Langtry was born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton in Jersey, United Kingdom, in 1853. She was sometimes known as Jersey Lil (the lily is a flower associated with Jersey).  At the age of 20 she married Edward Langtry and left Jersey for England, where she was introduced to society by her husband’s connections. Artist Frank Miles painted her portrait, which was sold to Prince Leopold. Thereafter, she became renowned for her great beauty and was much in demand at social gatherings. In 1881 she was convinced by her friend Oscar Wilde to embark upon an acting career. By the end of the year she had made her stage debut in London’s West End in “She Stoops to Conquer.” Her New York debut was postponed when the theatre burned down the evening before the opening. She toured America and returned to New York to study acting further. Her Broadway debut is considered to be the 1895 play “Gossip” at Palmers Theatre. Langtry had a number of affairs, even having a daughter out of wedlock. By 1897 she had divorced her husband and had become a US citizen. In 1899 she remarried to the much younger Hugo Gerald De Bathe. In 1900 she returned to the legit stage with “The Degenerates” at the Garden Theatre. Three years later she co-wrote and starred in the four act drama “The Cross-ways” at the Garrick Theatre. She followed this several months later with “Mrs. Deering’s Divorce” at the Savoy. In addition to the theatre, Langtry was also actively involved in horse racing, wine, and yachting – the finer things. She has only one film to her credit, the silent “His Neighbor’s Wife” in 1913. She retired to Monaco and died there at the age of 75. In 1978 there was a TV mini-series based on her life titled “Lillie.”  

Langtry in “The Degenerates” (1900)

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