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July 28 - Joe E. Brown

Happy Broadway Birthday to Joe E. Brown!

Joseph Evans Brown was born in Holgate, Ohio, in 1892. At the age of nine he ran away and joined the circus. At one point he played baseball professionally and was offered a place on the New York Yankees but turned it down to return to the circus. This led to working in vaudeville and in 1920 he made his Broadway debut at the Cort Theatre in “Jim Jam Jems.” In 1924 he returned in “Betty Lee” at the 44th Street Theatre with book and lyrics by Otto Harbach and Irving Caesar. That was followed almost immediately by “Captain Jinks” a musical comedy at the Martin Beck. From there he went to the Liberty Theatre for “Twinkle Twinkle” which closed in April 1927. It was then that Brown headed to Hollywood to make pictures. He made nearly fifty films before being wooed back to the Rialto as replacement for the lead in Mary Chase’s hit comedy “Harvey.” Brown had toured the play extensively while the original was on Broadway and in 1948 was rewarded with an honorary special Tony for his efforts. In 1951 he appeared in the technicolor movie remake of the stage hit “Show Boat.” That same year he made his final appearance on the Great White Way in “Courtin’ Time,” an original musical comedy staged by Alfred Drake and George Ballanchine. Despite the powerhouse creative team, it ran just 37 performances. He was also known for his appearances in the comic films “Around the World in Eighty Days” (1956), “Some Like it Hot” (1959), and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963). He was married to Kathryn Francis McGraw from 1915 until his passing in 1973 from arteriosclerosis. They had four children.

I’m not the comedian I once was. A comedian has to be slightly insulting, comedy has to be 70 per cent insults, and I’m always afraid today when I say something funny it may hurt someone.” ~ Joe E. Brown, 1952

July 27 - Simon Jones

Happy Broadway Birthday to Simon Jones!

Simon Jones was born in Charlton Park, Wiltshire, England, in 1950. He attended Cambridge University and was a member of their Footlighters Club. It was at Cambridge where he met Douglas Adams who wrote the role of Arthur Dent in “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” with Jones in mind. He played the role on radio and in the 1981 TV mini-series as well as having a small cameo role in the film adaptation. He also played the role of Lord Brideshead (Bridey) in the original TV mini-series “Brideshead Revisited” in 1981. His Broadway debut came in 1984 as a replacement in the Broadway premiere of Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing.” After that he appeared in Michael Frayn’s “The Benefactors” with Mary Beth Hurt, Glenn Close, and Sam Waterston. In 1991 he was featured in Circle-in-the-Square’s revival of Shaw’s “Getting Married” and then brought a West End revival of “Private Lives” to Broadway alongside Joan Collins. He returned to Stoppard with Roundabout’s 1992 double feature “The Real Inspector Hound” and “The Fifteen Minute Hamlet.” He was previously at Roundabout for “Privates on Parade” and also was seen in the 1983 film version. In 1995 he joined Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre for “The School for Scandal” with Randall in the cast as well. Michael Attenborough directed him in the Elizabethan period drama “The Herbal Bed” in 1998 but the show closed after just 13 performances. Lincoln Center Theatre cast him in their 1999 revival of “Ring Around the Moon” at the Belasco. That same year he was featured in the Broadway premiere of Noel Coward’s “Waiting in the Wings,” the story of a group of aging thespians that featured Lauren Bacall and Rosemary Harris. His most recent appearance on the Great White Way was with Angela Lansbury in “Blithe Spirit,” also by Coward. In addition to many guest appearances on TV he has also appeared extensively in regional theatre and done many talking books. Jones is married to Nancy Lewis and they have one child.  

July 26 - Vivian Vance


Happy Broadway Birthday to Vivian Vance!

Vivian Robert Jones was born in Cherryvale, Kansas, in 1909. Her mother was very strict and disproved of her desire to become an actress. After high school, she changed her name to Vance and moved to New Mexico where she founded a community theatre. The group helped her finance her move to New York City to study with Eva Le Gallienne. She made her Broadway debut in the chorus of 1932’s “Music in the Air” by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern. The show ran nearly a year, despite Union shut-downs and the depression. Ironically, at the same time Ethel Merman was appearing in “Take A Chance” at the Alvin. A film version of “Take A Chance” was made in 1933 and Vance appeared in the chorus. Back on Broadway Vance re-joined Merman in the ensemble of the hit “Anything Goes” and almost immediately followed the star into “Red, Hot & Blue” playing a chorus character named Vivian. In 1937 (without the Merm) she appeared in Harold Arlen’s political musical satire “Hooray for What!” playing the alliteratively named Stephanie Stephanovich. In 1939 she played her first non-musical, “Skylark” with Gertrude Lawrence. A year later she moved into another Broadway comedy “Out From Under” with Philip Ober, who became her third husband in 1941. The show lasted 9 performances; the marriage 18 years. The same year she wed Ober, she was back in a musical with “Let’s Face It!” starring Danny Kaye and Eve Arden. “It Takes Two” (1947) lasted just a week despite being staged by George Abbott. Later that year she appeared in a fully-staged revival of the labor opera “The Cradle Will Rock” as Mrs. Mister. Mr. Mister was played by Will Geer (later grandpa on TV’s “The Waltons”). After “Cradle” closed, Vance headed to Hollywood where she began doing TV and theatre on the West Coast. She was spotted by Desi Arnaz in a production of “Voice of the Turtle” and signed to play the role of Ethel Mertz on “I Love Lucy,” a role intended for Bea Benadaret. This led to a life-long association as Lucille Ball’s sidekick in subsequent TV shows featuring Ball. She was scheduled to return to Broadway in a Woody Allen play but left the cast during out-of-town tryouts due to creative differences. In 1969 she made one final appearance on Broadway in “My Daughter, Your Son” which had a brief run at the Booth. Vance married once more before she died in 1979 of cancer.

When I die, there will be people who send flowers to Ethel Mertz.” ~ Vivian Vance


Vance (center) in “Anything Goes” (1934)

July 25 - Jack Gilford

Happy Broadway Birthday to Jack Gilford!

Jack Gilford (nee Jacob Aaron Gellman) was born in New York City in 1907. He was a druggist when discovered by Milton Berle and was friends with Jackie Gleason in his early years. His first film was the 1936 musical short “Midnight Melodies.” After a stint doing comedy in downtown nightclubs, his Broadway debut came in 1940 with the revue “Meet the People” also starring Nanette Fabares and Jack Albertson. Two years later he was briefly seen in the comedy “The Should Have Stayed in Bed” which lasted a quick 11 performances. He did two feature films in 1944 and began doing television in 1949. Jack Cassidy, David Burns, and Carl Reiner joined him in the 1950 revue “Alive and Kicking” quickly followed by “The Live Wire” written and directed by Garsin Kanin. In 1955 he created the role of Mr. Dussel in the original production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Two years later he was in Peter Ustinov’s “Romanoff and Juliet” in which the author also starred. A month after it closed he was in the comedy “Drink to Me Only” directed by George Abbott. Three months into 1959 he appeared in “Look After Lulu” by Noel Coward, staged by Cyril Ritchard. He finished the 50s as King Septimus in “Once Upon A Mattress” a role he reprised on TV in 1964 and 1972. He left the musical before it closed to join the cast of “The Tenth Man” by Paddy Chayefsky. In 1962, he returned to the musical stage and was nominated for a Tony for playing the nervous Roman slave Hysterium in Stephen Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Although the show was a hit, the 1966 film version – in which he repeated his role – was not. In 1966 he was part of another hit musical, “Cabaret” earning his second Tony nomination for playing Herr Shultz. In the last months of 1969, Abbott cast him in a revival of his play “Three Men and a Horse.” In 1971 he played Jimmy Smith in a much-heralded revival of “No, No, Nanette.” When Neil Simon’s long-running play about elderly vaudevillians “The Sunshine Boys” moved from the Broadhurst to the Shubert, Gilford took over the role played by his “Meet the People” co-star Albertson. In 1976 Larry Gelbart (who had co-written “Forum”) wrote “Sly Fox” based on a Volpone play and director Arthur Penn cast Gilford opposite George C. Scott and his real-life wife Trish Van DeVere. Gene Saks directed him alongside Sandy Dennis, Hope Lange, Betty Garrett, and Joyce Van Patten in the short-lived 1981 comedy “The Supporting Cast” by George Furth. Gilford’s final role on the Great White Way was in “The World of Sholom Aleichem” produced by his wife Madeline Lee Gilford, whom he married in 1949. During their early years both were quite active in politics, leading them to be named the House on Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy years. This blacklisting resulted in a loss of many TV and film jobs during the 1950’s and 60’s. Gilford died in 1990 of stomach cancer at the age of 82. He is still fondly remembered as being featured in a series of television commercials for Cracker Jack. 

July 24 - Kristin Chenoweth

Happy Broadway Birthday to Kristin Chenoweth!

Kristi Dawn Chenoweth was born in 1968 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. She participated in theatre and music at church and school. She attended Oklahoma City University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Musical Theatre as well as a Master’s in vocal performance (opera). She was also an avid beauty contest participant. She was offered full scholarship to the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts but turned it down to make her professional debut in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of “Animal Crackers,” a Marx Brothers play. She continued to perform regionally and off-Broadway until making her Broadway debut in the ensemble of “Steel Pier” in 1997. The show closed after just 76 performances but Chenoweth earned a Theatre World Award for her performance. She went on to perform in the City Center Encores presentation of “Strike Up the Band” and the Lincoln Center Theatre offering “A New Brain” by William Finn. Her second Broadway endeavor was as Sally Brown in a revised version of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” in 1999. A new song called “My New Philosophy” helped her win her first Tony as well as a Drama Desk and an Outer Critics Circle Award. Her next Broadway play was the short-lived comedy “Epic Proportions,” the run of which was less than epic, clocking in with just 93 performances. It wasn’t long before she was back at City Center Encores in “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” playing the leading role of Daisy Gamble. Chenoweth then took some time away from the stage to concentrate on TV, film and concert bookings. She had her own self-titled series “Kristin” (2001, 11 episodes) as well as appearing on “The West Wing” (2006), “Pushing Daisies” (2007, Emmy Award), “Sit Down Shut Up” (2009), “GCB” (2012), and “Glee” (2009). Back on Broadway she created the role of Glinda in the new musical “Wicked” in 2003. She was nominated for a Tony for Best Actress but lost to her co-star Idina Menzel as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. In 2006 she joined Roundabout Theatre Company for a revival of “The Apple Tree” at Studio 54, earning another Drama Desk nomination. Another classic revival was “Promises, Promises” in 2010 opposite Sean Hayes. She is scheduled to return to Broadway and Roundabout with a rare revival of the musical “On the 20th Century” in February 2015. She will play the role of Lily Garland, originated by Madeline Kahn. Chenoweth is currently filming or in post-production for five new movies.

Not everyone is going to like what you do or what you have to offer; however, if you can’t see yourself doing anything else, and you have the drive and ambition, get the training and go for it.” ~ Kristin Chenoweth 

with Idina Menzel in “Wicked” (2003)

July 23 - Arthur Treacher

Happy Broadway Birthday to Arthur Treacher!

Arthur Veary Treacher was born in Brighton, England, in 1894. He served in World War I and afterward started his show business career. His Broadway debut came in 1926, with a variety show at the Winter Garden called “The Temptations.” In 1928 he was in the three-act book musical “The Madcap” which divided its 103 performance run between the Royale and Casino Theatres. He made his screen debut in the 1929 musical “Battle of Paris” with Charles Ruggles and Gertrude Lawrence. He made more than seventy motion pictures in his long career. He was known as Jeeves the butler in a series of films based on the Wodehouse books. He appeared opposite Shirley Temple in several films and in the Elizabeth Taylor classic “National Velvet.” His most famous film was “Mary Poppins” where he played the often-aghast Constable of Cherry Tree Lane. Back on Broadway in 1930 he did a short run in the Booth Tarkington play “Colonel Satan” followed by the play with music “The Wonder Bar.” In 1931 he appeared opposite Ethel Barrymore at her theatre in the Sheridan comedy “The School for Scandal.” After a nine year absence in Hollywood he came back to Broadway with the musical “Panama Hattie” starring Ethel Merman. He joined Milton Berle and a host of others in “Ziegfeld Follies of 1943” which was so popular it moved theatres and played until mid-1944. In 1949 Cedric Hardwicke directed and starred in Shaw’s “Caesar and Cleopatra” in which Treacher played Brittanus. More Shaw followed with a 1951 revival of “Getting Married” at the ANTA Playhouse. He played multiple roles in the 1958 revival of “Back To Methuselah” but that didn’t help it run longer than 29 performances. He co-starred with Roddy McDowell, Rex Harrison, and Michael Gough in “The Fighting Cock” staged by Peter Brook in 1959. His final appearance on Broadway was as a replacement Pellinore in the Lerner and Loewe classic “Camelot.” He made many guest appearances on TV, the last being “The Beverly Hillbillies” in 1964. On the strength of his reputation as a quintessential British character actor, he loaned his name to a fast food fish and chips chain in 1969. The exact arrangements of his interest in the company were never disclosed, although he did several commercials promoting them. He was married to Virginia Taylor from 1940 until his death in 1975.   

July 22 - John Leguizamo

Happy Broadway Birthday to John Leguizamo!

John Alberto Leguizamo was born in Bogata, Columbia, in 1964. In 1968 his family immigrated to the US settling in New York City. He began writing comedy in high school and went to NYU to study theatre, dropping out to pursue a stand-up career. He took additional theatre courses at C.W. Post. He began his acting career with a small role in “Miami Vice” and was seen in a Madonna music video in 1984. He completed a half dozen feature films before his first stage success as writer and performer in off-Broadway’s “Mambo Mouth.” Two years later he created the show “Spic-O-Rama” based on his Latino roots which also won awards off-Broadway. Both shows were filmed for HBO. As was his Broadway debut, “Freak” in 1998. “Freak” earned him a Drama Desk Award and a Tony nomination. He followed that with “Sexaholix” in 2002, about his love life and settling down as a family man. The show was revived for a limited engagement in 2003. In 2008 he acted in David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” with Cedric the Entertainer and Haley Joel Osment. It played just a week at the Belasco. In 2011 he returned to his original solo work with “Ghetto Klown,” again earning a Drama Desk Award. Late in 2013 it was taped for HBO. He has continued his TV and film work with such notable hits as “To Wong Foo” and “Romeo + Juliet” and as voice talent in the popular “Ice Age” films. He is currently seen in the movie “Chef” and has five films upcoming for 2014-15. Leguizamo has been married twice and has two children.

I see the new Latin artist as a pioneer, opening up doors for others to follow. And when they don’t open, we crowbar our way in.” ~ John Leguizamo

July 21 - Anne Meacham

Happy Broadway Birthday to Anne Meacham!

Mary Anne Meacham was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1925. She graduated from Yale School of Drama in 1947. She made her Broadway debut in “The Long Watch” which played a short run at the Lyceum in 1952. Two years later she was in “Ondine” alongside Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn and Marion Seldes, who became her life-long friend. That year she also began doing television on “The Brighter Day.” Orson Welles headlined a 1956 City Center production of “King Lear” with Meacham understudying the few female roles. Back at City Center to understudy in 1956, she began her long association with the plays of Tennessee Williams standing by for Tallulah Bankhead in a revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She understudied yet again barely a month later in “Mister Johnson” at the Martin Beck. She finally got to create a role – again cast with Bankhead – in “Eugenia” at the Ambassador. It ran a mere 12 performances. Off-Broadway she created the role of Catherine Holly in Williams’ “The Garden District” (later re-titled “Suddenly Last Summer”). Meacham won an Obie for the performance. Back on Broadway, she played Lizzie Borden in “The Legend of Lizzie” but the show was axed after just two performances. That freed her up to do “Moonbirds” at the Cort a few months later. Sadly, their wings were clipped after just three performances. Back off-Broadway she earned a second Obie playing “Hedda Gabler” at the Fourth Street Theatre. The E.M. Forster novel “A Passage to India” was brought to the Broadway stage in 1962 with Meacham as Miss Adela Quested. Two years later The American National Theatre and Academy presented a repertory of “The Crucible” and “The Seagull” that featured Meacham. Her final appearance on the Great White Way was in Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Ironically, the play was the first Broadway outing for Elizabeth Franz, who went on to co-star with Meacham on the NBC daytime drama “Another World.” Both Franz and Meacham played staff in the Cory household. Meacham played eccentric Cory housekeeper Louise Goddard Brooks from 1971 to 1982. She died in 2006 at the age of 80.

"There’s nothing she won’t say or do on stage without any sign of embarrassment".~ Tennessee Williams about Anne Meacham

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