Happy Broadway Birthday to Dorothy Gish!
Dorothy Elizabeth Gish was born in Dayton, OH, in 1898. She and her older sister Lilian are related to President Zachary Taylor on their mother Mary’s side. Her father was mostly absent during her childhood so as soon as she was able Mary put the girls onstage in her act. By 1912 Dorothy was making films for D.W. Griffith’s Biograph Studios. By 1915 she had made a remarkable 80 short silent films. She continued doing movies during the transition to talkies, now doing features and playing larger roles. In 1928 she took a break from films to return to her childhood love – the stage. She made her Broadway debut in “Young Love” for George Cukor, a play she later starred in on the London stage as well. She appeared in seventeen Broadway plays including the original production of “Mornings at Seven,” a role that she played again on television in 1956 and 1960. Her last film was Otto Preminger’s “The Cardinal” in 1963. From 1920 to 1963 she was married to actor James Rennie, whom she met while starring in a film directed by her sister Lillian. She died in 1968 and is entombed in St. Bart’s Episcopal Church in NYC. Her sister passed away 25 years later and was laid to rest beside her. Dorothy also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“I wanted to be a tragedienne. I only wanted sad parts.” ~ Dorothy Gish
Happy Broadway Birthday to Barry Fitzgerald!
William Joseph Shields was born just a week before the Feast of St. Patrick (not yet known as St. Patrick’s Day) in Dublin, Ireland, in 1888. His younger brother Arthur also became an actor. He went to college in Dublin and worked in Civil Service, also working at the Abbey Theatre before becoming an actor full-time in 1929. For a brief time he roomed with playwright Sean O’Casey and appeared in the original Abbey Theatre production of his play “Juno and the Paycock.” In 1930 he made his film debut appearing in the film version of the play under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. (In America it was alternately known as “The Shame of Mary Boyle.”) He did not, however, play the role of Captain Jack, as he had done in the original. Instead, he was only in the first scene as the ‘Orator’. When the Abbey Theatre Irish Players came to Broadway in 1932, Fitzgerald came with them, appearing in “Things That Are Caesar’s” a play by another Abby playwright, Paul Vincent Carroll. It ran concurrently with their production of “The Far-Off Hills” by Lennox Robinson. Two years later the troupe returned to Broadway with a repertory of 15 Irish plays, including O’Casey’s “The Plough and the Stars” and “Playboy of the Western World” by John Millington Synge. The first and last days of 1939 were book ended by Broadway appearances in two more Carroll dramas: “The White Steed” and “Kindred.” “Kindred” only lasted two weeks, but just ten days later Fitzgerald was back on the Great White Way recreating his role of Captain Jack in a revival of “Juno and the Paycock.” His final appearance on Broadway was in 1941’s “Tanyard Street.” But Fitzgerald’s career was far from over. For most of the 1940’s he appeared in a succession of Hollywood films, including his most famous role as Father Fitzgibbon in “Going My Way” (1944). Oddly, he was honored with nominations for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscars, winning for Supporting. Academy rules no longer allow for such ‘double dipping’. In 1955 he was re-united with Hitchcock for an episode of the director’s television show, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” He made his last film in 1959 and that same year retired to Dublin where he died two years later at the age of 72. In 1988 he was honored by the Irish government with a postage stamp bearing his likeness. Fitzgerald has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“A golf course is nothing but a pool room moved outdoors.” ~ Barry Fitzgerald (Who broke the head off his Oscar for “Going My Way” practicing his golf swing!)
Happy Broadway Birthday to Lonnie Price!
Lonnie Price was born in NYC in 1959 and grew up in Metuchen, NJ, attending the High School for the Performing Arts (the “Fame” school) in NYC. He kept busy doing off-Broadway theatre before making his Broadway debut with a small role in the World War II drama “The Survivor” in 1981. “The Survivor” didn’t – lasting only one week. That freed Price up to do his next show, the legendary Hal Prince / Stephen Sondheim flop “Merrily We Roll Along.” Sadly, this show, too, didn’t last long closing after 80 performances. His next show was a bit more successful, “Master Harold…and the Boys” in 1982. Unfortunately, his next two Broadway vehicles were no more successful than his first two: “Rags” and “Broadway” - both of which ran only four performances. In 1988 he was a replacement in the cast of the play “Burn This.” During the 80’s Price also played small roles in TV and film projects including a role in the movie “Dirty Dancing.”
In 1994 he began directing and writing with the show “Sally Marr…and her escorts” teaming with Joan Rivers, who also starred. He began an association with the NY Philharmonic directing staged readings of their musical theatre concerts, continuing his association with Stephen Sondheim and earning an Emmy Award for his staging of “Sweeney Todd” starring Patti LuPone. He is currently repeating that assignment in a new staging of the show starring Emma Thomspon. Back on Broadway he wrote the book, directed and acted in a musical based on the life of “A Chorus Line” creator Edward Kleban titled “A Class Act” (2001). This was his last appearance on Broadway to date. He directed a stage musical adaptation of “Urban Cowboy” in 2003 that again proved short-lived. He then turned back to his own past by directing “Master Harold” for Roundabout in 2003. Also for Roundabout he directed Audra McDonald in a rare staging of the musical “110 in the Shade” in 2007. His next directorial effort on the Great White Way will be a revival of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” also starring McDonald.
with Ann Morrison and Jim Walton in “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981)
Happy Broadway Birthday to Lynn Redgrave!
Lynn Rachel Redgrave was born in London, England, in 1943. Her father was Sir Michael Redgrave and her mother Rachel Kempson, both prominent actors. Her siblings Vanessa and Corin are also actors as are her nieces Natasha and Joely Richardon and Jemma Redgrave. Her grandfather was Roy Redgrave, a star of silent pictures. She trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama and made her stage debut at the Royal Court Theatre at the age of 19 and her West End debut shortly afterward. She was part of the first company of Britain’s National Theatre at the Old Vic. She steadily performed for three years in London before also doing films such as “Tom Jones” and “Georgy Girl” playing opposite her mother. She made her Broadway debut in Peter Schaffer’s play “Black Comedy” on the bill with Michael Crawford and Geraldine Page. She continued doing films and West End plays until her return to Broadway in 1974’s “My Fat Friend,” a comedy about weight loss and body image. Two years later she starred opposite Ruth Gordon in “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” for the NY Public Theatre at Lincoln Center. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her work in the Shaw play. In her next two Broadway shows she played characters named Joan: first in the 1976 comedy “Knock Knock” and then in the classic “Saint Joan.” More film roles followed, including playing “The Happy Hooker” on film and making “House Calls” on the small screen. In 1985 she starred opposite Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert in “Aren’t We All.”
Around this time she was also spokesperson for Weight Watchers, echoing her appearance in “My Fat Friend” - a role she performed in a fat suit. She became known for their TV commercials where she would say “This is living!” which also became the title of her autobiography. Her father died in 1985, and Lynn constructed a tribute show called “Shakespeare for My Father” that played on Broadway in 1993. In between she was seen as the alter-ego of Mary Tyler Moore in “Sweet Sue,” in “A Little Hotel on the Side” and “The Master Builder” both for Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre. In 1996 she replaced Carol Burnett in “Moon Over Buffalo.” In 1998 she earned a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for her role in “Gods and Monsters” playing housekeeper to film director James Whale. She only appeared on Broadway once more – in Roundabout’s 2005 production of “The Constant Wife.” One of her last stage projects was playing Lady Bracknell at NJ’s Paper Mill Playhouse.
Redgrave died from breast cancer in 2010. She was married to John Clark from 1967 to 2000 and has three children.
“God always has another custard pie up his sleeve.” ~ Lynn Redgrave
with Kate Burton in “The Constant Wife” (2005)
Happy Broadway Birthday to Donna Murphy!
Murphy was born into a large family in Queens, NY, in 1959. While still young, she her family relocated to MA where she graduated high school in 1977. She atteneded NYU but dropped out in order to pursue theatre full time. In 1979 she landed her first Broadway show, as a swing and eventual replacement in “They’re Playing Our Song.” She did a lot of Off-Broadway theatre, which in two cases led to her next two Broadway shows, both for producer Joe Papp and the NY Public Theatre: “The Human Comedy” (1984) and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” (1985). In the latter show she received terrific word of mouth understudying Betty Buckley and Cleo Laine. In 1987 she did her first TV work appearing as a singer (naturally) in “Tales from the Hollywood Hills.”
In 1991 she had a recurring role (DA Morgan Graves) on the daytime drama “Another World.” Her next Broadway show was a clear breakthrough, playing Fosca in Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion.” Although the show had a short run, she won both a Tony and Drama Desk for her work. The musical was also recorded and is available on video. Another leading role followed in 1996 when she played Mrs. Anna in the Broadway revival of “The King and I” winning her second Tony Award. She continued to work in film and television, appearing multiple times on “Law and Order” as well as on “Ally McBeal” and “CSI.” In 2003 she appeared as Ruth Sherwood in a revival of “Wonderful Town” on Broadway. She followed that by appearing as the legendary Lotte Lenya in “LoveMusik” in 2007. It lasted only 60 performances, as did her most recent Broadway entry “The People in the Picture” in 2011. Last year she was seen in the TV movie “The House of Versace.”
In 1990 Murphy married actor and singer Shawn Elliott. The pair have three children.
“I’m a kid who did stock and summer youth theater where we’d put up two shows and you had no rehearsal. I’ve also understudied, where I’ve had to go on with no rehearsal.” ~ Donna Murphy
as Mrs. Anna in “The King and I” (1996)
Happy Broadway Birthday to Stephen Schwartz!
Stephen Lawrence Schwartz was born in New York City in 1948. While at Mineola High School he also studied piano and composition at Juilliard. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1968 with a BFA in drama. Returning to NYC, his first big break was writing the title song for the Broadway play “Butterflies are Free” in 1969. The song was eventually used in the film adaptation as well. In 1971 he was asked to write music for an existing rock musical by John Michael Tebelak that ironically had originated at Carnegie Mellon. He agreed and the show moved from LaMama (an experimental theatre venue) to off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre. It eventually moved from there to an uptown location and then to Broadway. The musical was called “Godspell” and it was filmed two years later. It has become one of the world’s most produced musicals and was revived on Broadway in 2011. The success of the show allowed Schwartz to gain interest in a college project about the life of Charlemagne’s son, Pippin. With Bob Fosse’s trademark staging, the musical opened on Broadway in 1972. It is currently being revived at The Music Box Theatre. Two year later, Schwartz was again called to rescue a show with his music, a Canadian musical starring magician Doug Henning. Despite the fact that Henning could not sing, Schwartz fashioned a score for what would be called “The Magic Show” which would even out-last even Henning’s participation. Schwartz had a disappointment with his next show, “The Baker’s Wife.” It toured the country starring Patti LuPone but never made it to Broadway. It was eventually staged in London’s West End and in several high-profile regional productions but still has not been seen on the Great White Way. In 1978 Schwartz directed and wrote songs for a musical based on the book “Working” by Studs Terkel. Although it only lasted two dozen performances on Broadway, it earned him a Drama Desk Award for Directing. His next Broadway venture was the musical “Rags” - the thematic sequel to “Fiddler on the Roof.” It, too, was not a hit. With so many Broadway miss-fires, Schwartz turned from stage to screen, writing scores for animated hits like “Pocahontas,” “The Prince of Egypt,” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Another near-miss was his Biblical musical “Children of Eden” - a London flop, but re-tooled in a 1997 production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. His return to Broadway came in 2003 with an adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s “Wizard of Oz” inspired story, “Wicked.” The show was a huge hit and is still in residence at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre as well as in theatres around the world. Hearkening back to his work with Henning, Schwartz is currently writing a musical based on the life of Harry Houdini. In 1969 he married Carole Piasecki and the pair have two children.
“Those who don’t try, never look foolish.” ~ Stephen Schwartz, WICKED
Happy Broadway Birthday to Rex Harrison!
Reginald Carey Harrison was born in Huyton, England, in 1908. He attended Liverpool College and made his stage debut in the city in 1924. He served in the Armed Forces during World War II. Harrison later appeared in the West End in “French Without Tears” by Terrence Rattigan, which proved a breakthrough role. He was equally familiar on stages on both sides of the pond, making his Broadway debut in “Sweet Aloes” in 1936. That same year he made his Hollywood film debut, having already done a half a dozen film in the UK. He didn’t return to Broadway until 1948, instead completing films like “Blithe Spirit” (1945), “Anna and the King of Siam” (1946) and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947). His return to the Great White Way was as King Henry VIII in “Anne of a Thousand Days” winning a Tony in the process. He followed that with “Bell, Book and Candle” in 1950. In 1956 Harrison was approached about playing Professor Henry Higgins in a musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” He refused, thinking it was an impossible play to turn into a musical. He also reminded producers that he was not a singer. But he eventually gave in and joined the original production of “My Fair Lady” opposite newcomer Julie Andrews. Not only was the show a huge hit, it would be Harrison’s best-remembered role. He won his second Tony Award for the part. He also did the film version opposite Audrey Hepburn in 1964, winning an Oscar. Harrison returned to the role in a 1981 Broadway revival. Ironically, he was also courted for the musical “The King and I” based on his playing the role of the King in the 1946 non-musical film. The role went to Yul Brynner, who turned it into his signature role on stage and screen. Now in demand, the same year he filmed “My Fair Lady” he was courted by Noel Coward for his stage musical “The Girl Who Came To Supper.” Jose Ferrer eventually played the role. Harrison continued to work on stage and screen in the 1970’s and 80’s, appearing in his last Broadway show “The Circle” in 1989. That year he was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth becoming Sir Rex Harrison. He died of pancreatic cancer just three weeks after “The Circle” closed. Harrison had six wives, having one child by his second wife.
“Exhilaration is that feeling you get just after a great idea hits you, and just before you realize what’s wrong with it.” ~ Rex Harrison
Julie Andrews practicing her “H’s” with Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady”