Thursday, March 23, 2017



           Scene:  The Shubert Theatre in New York City,  before a full house of celebrated theatre folks
and members of the adoring public.   Julie Harris talks about Helen Hayes at her memorial tribute.
            "She was the light of my life. She was an inspiration to me, now and always.
            I first remember seeing her on stage as Viola with Maurice Evans in Twelfth Night.
Helen Hayes in 12th Night
I took a picture of her---she was so charming, so beautiful, so glamorous, absolutely adorable, every bone in her body.
       Fast forward many years later.   I was in  I Am A Camera, a play by John Van Druten. The producers were giving me a beautiful party at the Empire theatre to celebrate my stardom because my name was over the title of the play on the theatre.
      Helen came with our press man, Barry Hyams, and she came to the stage door and my dressing room and gave me a white envelope with a letter inside.    In the letter she wrote that she was giving me as a talisman, a little handkerchief, in the corner of which were the embroidered initials SB.

This had belonged to Sarah Bernhardt and had been given to the American actress Annie Russell on one of Ms. Bernhardt's farewell tours.  And since Annie Russell had it, it had been passed on from person to person as a talisman and had been given to Helen's daughter Mary MacArthur.  Helen gave it to me.

And I remember thinking, what if I lose this handkerchief? I better find someone to give it to right away.    So later on that season I saw Susan Strasberg in The Diary of Anne Frank and I passed the handkerchief to Susie.

Now many years later, Helen and I were sitting back stage at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston. It was the occasion of the Elliot Norton Awards and we were sitting right in the wings on a little bench and Helen turned to me. She was going to be specially honored that night and Mr. Norton was making a speech about her. She was sitting quietly next to me. She had just come from a grand tour on a ship and she looked sparkling, charming, beautiful, electrifying, dazzling (I couldn't take my eyes off her) and she turned to me and in a very quiet voice said, "You know I don't miss the stage at all!" And I said, "No, I suppose not. You have had this wonderful career in the legit. You must have done all the things you wanted to do.' And she looked at me quizzically and said, "Yes, I suppose that's it."  And then we heard Elliot Norton say, "And now Miss Helen Hayes".  And Helen, like a ten year old child, strode across the stage and she didn't need any lights at all.  She was luminous. She just lit up the whole world with this radiance.  And she made the most wonderful speech to the audience. At the end she said, "You
know I miss the stage!" And then she said, "Let me do something for you."  She recited the whole last scene from Victoria Regina!
                                                           I said to her after, "You don't miss the stage at all, do you?"
Mary MacArthur
Annie Russell

  I miss her. I will always miss her. But I will always have that radiance inside my heart forever and ever. I am going to say a prayer of  St. Teresa of Avila for all of us actors and for Helen.

"Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass but God never changes. Patient endurance attains all things. He who possesses God is wanting in nothing. God alone is enough."
           You are enough for us Helen, always forever and ever.
           We love you!

Source: Transcript of the Helen Hayes Memorial Tribute by Mari Lyn Henry                                                                  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

(January 18, 1867 - January 9, 1951)

The English Bernhardt has been forgotten, rarely referenced and yet was involved in one of the  most controversial episodes in theatrical history when her starring role in Clyde Fitch's Sapho (adapted from the novel by Alphonse Daudet) was at the center of a sensational New York City indecency trial.   The incident is considered a notable step in the transformation of American society's attitudes regarding gender roles and public depictions of sex in the 20th century.

She was born in London, of Spanish descent on her mother's side.  Her father was Henry Nethersole, a solicitor. Her stage debut occurred at the Theatre Royal, Brighton in 1887.
Her powerful emotional acting made a great impact in Carmen which she performed in America in 1906.
Other roles include The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (Odeon, 1904); Magda, Adrienne Lecouvreur and Camille at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre.

Theatrical critics at the turn of the century attributed her Spanish ancestry to the passionate intensity of her acting methods.  She was known for her 'ferocious' emotionalism in climactic scenes.
   Her personal life was very ordered and most professional. She was known for her punctuality, strict health regimens concerning exercise and diet, and for her self-conscious mimetic artistry.  She advocated for the plays of Ibsen, Shaw and Gorky and was willing to appear in controversial projects.

When she began performing on the English stages at 17, her international reputation was acclaimed when she played a supporting role in
The Dean's Daughter at the St. James Theatre.  Her unbridled emotional approach to roles was noticed in Agatha (1892), prompting  conventional critics like Clement Scott to remark with surprise that 'women seldom let themselves go on the English stage.' When she alone made The Transgressor, a tedious, preachy play about marriage laws, a gripping experience in 1894, she debuted with this play in America the same year.
                                  Acclaimed Broadway producer Augustin Daly is responsible for branding her the "English Bernhardt".  The New York audience was not overwhelmed and critical opinion was undecided until she performed Camille in which her subtlety was embraced and she continued for many years to cross the Atlantic regularly in plays featuring a female protagonist.

When a conference was held at the Athenee Theatre in Paris in 1908, Robert Eude said that it was Olga Nethersole who invented the soul kiss (an especially long kiss for which Maude Adams had held the record.)


The NYSSV was an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public, founded in 1873 by Anthony Comstock and his supporters in the YMCA. It was chartered by the New York State legislature, which granted its agents powers of search, seizure and arrest, and awarded the society 50% of all fines levied in resulting cases.
   Anthony Comstock (March 7, 1844 -September 21, 1915)
was a U.S. Postal Inspector and politician dedicated to ideas of Victorian morality. The terms 'Comstockery' and 'Comstockism' were used for his extensive campaign to censor materials he considered indecent and obscene, such as birth control information.  (Note:  How relevant to today's political climate.)

In 1873 he successfully influenced the U.S. Congress to pass the Comstock Law, which made illegal the delivery by U.S. mail, or by other modes of transportation, of "obscene, lewd, or lascivious' material as well as prohibiting any methods of production or publication of information pertaining to the procurement of abortion, the prevention of conception and the prevention of venereal disease.
    George Bernard Shaw used the term comstockery in 1905 after Comstock had alerted the New York City police to the content of Mrs. Warren's Profession which caused the play to be closed after opening night.
     Comstock aroused intense loathing from early civil liberties groups and intense support from church-based groups worried about public morals.  He was made a special agent of the USPS, with police powers including the right to carry a weapon.
    During his career, he clashed with Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger. In her autobiography, Goldman referred to Comstock as the leader of America's 'moral eunuchs' He had numerous enemies and in later years his health was affected by a severe blow to his head by an anonymous attacker.   He lectured to college audiences and wrote newspaper articles to sustain his causes.
  Before his death, he attracted the interest of a young law student, J. Edgar Hoover, who was interested in his causes and methods.

Olga Nethersole had asked Clyde Fitch to adapt Sapho, telling the story from the point of view of the lead female character rather than the male character as was done with the original novel and play.  She produced, directed, and starred.
Sapho is a 'problem play' centering on a woman who has love affairs with men to whom she is not married.  The lead character, Fanny LeGrand, seduces a naive man named Jean Gaussin. In the scene that caused the most furor, the two characters ascend a spiral staircase together, presumably toward a bedroom though that is never shown or staged. In the end LeGrand leaves Gaussin to reform and marry the father of her child.

After out-of-town tryouts in Chicago and other cities, the play opened in New York at the old (1882-1904) Wallack's Theatre on Broadway and 30th St. on February 5, 1900. Reviews were negative and the press predicted it would flop.  The show's notoriety kept it going and it ran for 83 performances.
 From 1901-1913 she toured in American cities and in London and Australia.   The play remained controversial, with municipal authorities in some cities banning performances entirely or insisting on changes in dialogue or costumes.
       Under pressure from the NYSSV, the Society for the Study of Life and the New York Mother's Club who protested the play's language and immoral costumes, New York D.A Asa Bird Gardiner ordered Olga Nethersole, her co-star Hamilton Revelle, and two managers to be arrested on February 21.  Police closed the theatre on March 5.    Following a two-day trial, the jury spent 15 minutes acquitting her and the others.  The play reopened on April 7.

The Sapho indecency trial is a well-known step in the transition from the era of Victorian morality as it existed in America, particularly regarding attitudes toward onstage depictions of gender, intimacy and sex.  According to Olga Nethersole's 1951 obituary (NY Times), "During the Comstock era...when a public kiss on the mouth was considered an indecency...Nethersole typified the growing revolt against prudery and was a staunch advocate of women's rights and intellectual indepencence."

Some historians theorize that the authorities treated her more harshly than women appearing in other "courtesan" plays (Camille, The Second Mrs. Tanqueray) because she was a manager in addition to an actress, which upset other contemporary social norms regarding the roles of men and women.

      She served as a nurse in London throughout World War 1 and later established the
People's League of Health, for which she received the Royal Red Cross (RRC) in 1920. She combined her theatre work with health work for the rest of her life.  She was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBD) in 1936.

She never married but dedicated her life to the pursuit of human rights, advocating for women and their independence and giving her all to every role she chose to play.


#olganethersole #Newyorksocietyforsuppressionofvice
#anthonycomstock  #georgebernardshaw #Hamiltonrevelle
#Jedgarhoover #saphotheplay  #alphonsedaudet #clydefitch
#augustindaly  #clementscott #Britishredcross
#People'sleagueofhealth #emmagoldman #Margaretsanger

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

MARY MARTIN (Dec. 1, 1913 - Nov. 3, 1990)
From Venus to Nellie to Maria to Peter Pan

Her life was filled with adventure, heartbreak, hard work, professionalism, discipline, discovery, and an unbreakable bond with the best of show business!

Born to a prominent middle class family in Weatherford, Texas before the first world war, she became the apple of her parents' eyes.  Her family supported her in her creative endeavors, her desire to dance and sing like an angel, comedic instincts and timing and her ability to take risks.

She said that her daddy could turn her into an angel with just one look. She began singing outside the courtroom where her father worked every Saturday night at a bandstand where the town band played.  She and her sister and a friend would dress in bellhop uniforms. "Even in those days without microphones, my high piping voice carried all over the square."  She had a photographic memory as a child making it easy to memorize songs and pass her school tests. She also had a talent for mimicking famous celebrities like Ruby Keeler and Bing Crosby.  While she was at a finishing school in Nashville, she enjoyed impersonating Fanny Brice at singing jobs.
At 17 she was married to Ben Hagman and had a baby (Larry Hagman) But ultimately she  didn't enjoy being a wife. Then her sister Geraldine suggested she should teach dance.  She created her own moves imitating the famous dancers she watched in the movies. "I was doing something I wanted to do---creating."

Her father advised her that she was too young to be married.  She left her baby with her family and went to Hollywood, subsequently divorcing Ben Hagman.

In Hollywood, she had so many auditions that she became known as "Audition Mary". At one particular audition she sang "Indian Love Call" after which a tall rather craggy looking man who towered over her said he thought she had something special. Her first real encouragement came from none other than Oscar Hammerstein 11, marking the start of her career.

    In the late summer of her second year of getting the big Hollywood break, she was asked to sing on a Sunday night talent show at the famed Trocadero nightclub. She chose what she would wear and what she would sing.  For openers she selected "The Weekend of a Private Secretary" (music,
Bernie Hanighen, lyrics, Johnny Mercer). Her second number was "Il Bacio" (The Kiss) in a jazzed-up, syncopated version.  "You could have heard a pin drop,' she reports in her autobiography,"From there I began to swing the be-daylights out of it.  When I finished--- it started: shouting, whistling, calls of bravo, people standing on chairs, on tables. I knew I had made it. In ten minutes my life had changed."   Jack Benny was in the audience and invited her to a table where she met
Laurence Schwab, one of the most important producers on Broadway who was to become a friend for life. He called her, offered her a role in a new musical comedy he was planning to do and, as an afterthought, suggested she get her teeth capped.
        "All through the years young people have asked me what  makes the big break happen. I have always answered the same:  work. Work and work and work.   Be ready when the break comes. It could be one break, or forty, or a hundred and forty. I had hundreds of auditions, but I was not ready until that fateful Sunday night." (My Heart Belongs....)

     She would audition for Cole Porter, Sam and Bella Spewack (composer and book writers of the hit Leave it to Me) in which she was cast as a strip teaser who sang only one number, which became her signature song and enjoyed around the world.   My Heart Belongs To Daddy.  The show's stars included William Gaxton, Victor Moore and Sophie Tucker.  "Sophie Tucker used to watch me all the time in the wings.  Once after I had sung "Daddy" in rehearsal she came over and said, 'Kid, do you know what you're singing? Do you know what the words mean?"  I said of course but she persisted. "Do you know that Daddy is not your father?" "I know that he's a man who takes care of me." But Sophie shook her head: "But do you know what you're singing?"  I wasn't all that sure. I didn't have any idea what finnan haddie was until somebody told me it was a fish. Finally Sophie explained, "It is a naughty song, a risque song. There's one thing I want you to do. Each time you sing a lyric you don't understand, don't know exactly what you're singing, tell it to your audience. I mean like, 'If I invite a boy some night to dine on my fine finnan haddie, I just adore his asking for more, 'but, on the last line, never look at the audience. Look straight up to heaven, fold your hands, and sing 'but my heart belongs to Daddy.'"  The song became a show stopper.   Fun fact: One of the eskimos who was back up in that number was Gene Kelly in his first Broadway job.  She said that his drive and determination were boundless.

   In 1943 she starred in the new Kurt Weill musical One Touch of Venus.  After a disappointing sojourn in Hollywood where she made a few films, she returned to Broadway where she met one of the most special women in her life--Cheryl Crawford.  The show had been originally written for Marlene Dietrich, her theater debut in America.  But she decided not to do it.  She believed at first that she could not play Venus (if Ms. Dietrich was the original choice).  But when she heard the score in Kurt Weill's apartment she was hooked especially with the the song "That's Him". The renowned couturier fashion designer Richard Mainbocher was approached to design her wardrobe. He had never designed clothing for Broadway but when she sang That's Him to him he promised to do her clothes and created the color 'Venus pink', pale and glowing"as the inside of a seashell."
     When Oscar Hammerstein 11 saw One Touch of Venus, he said that the moment at the end of the musical when Venus reappears as a mortal from Ozone Heights, he wanted to write a part for the innocent, eager little girl in the white-pique blouse, pink polka-dot skirt, and matching rolled-brim hat. He wrote it too--Nellie Forbush in South Pacific was a descendant of Venus.

  On April 7, 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein's  South Pacific, produced by Leland Hayward, directed and choreographed by Josh Logan, opened on Broadway starring Miss Mary Martin and
Mr. Ezio Pinza,  famed opera singer. She was terrified of appearing on the same stage with him.  After seeing him perform in a concert in Brooklyn she phoned Rodgers imploring him not to have them sing together. And they never did except for  "Wonder How it Feels' in counterpoint.  The score still is one of the most beautiful for the way it sounded and moved the narrative. In particular she was proud of the way she approached "I'm Gonna Wash that Man."   "Honey Bun", she recalls, was one of the most joyous moments for her.  When the curtain came down, the "audience not only refused to leave the theatre, they all stood up and crowded toward the front, shouting and clapping and calling for more, more, more."  Time magazine wrote:  "Hammerstein and Logan have contrived a shrewd mixture of tear-jerking and rib-tickling, of sugar and spice, and everything twice".  Richard Watts Jr., New York Post: "nothing I have ever seen her do prepared me for the loveliness, humor, gift for joyous characterization, and sheer lovableness of her portrayal of Nellie Forbush..Hers is a completely irresistible performance."

"Honey Bun"


Peter Pan is perhaps the most important thing, to me, that I have ever done in the theater.  I cannot even remember a day when I didn't want to be Peter. When I was a child I was sure I could fly. In my dreams I often did, and it was always the same: I ran, raised my arms like a great bird, soared into the sky, flew."

Her dear friend Jean Arthur was the first Peter on Broadway in 1950. Mary and her husband, manager, and best friend Richard Halliday were approached about a new musical version of the show.  They could pick the composer, director and choreographer. They talked a young
Jerome Robbins into staging the entire production.  Captain Hook would be played by the famed British character actor Cyril Ritchard; the flying instructor was a young Brit named Peter Foy, whose family had 'flown' all the stage Peters for fifty years.  Foy planned the whole thing like a "military campaign' making charts of stage positions, calculating what can only be called trajectories of people in midair.'
"I wish I could express in words the joy I felt in flying. I love it so. The freedom of spirit, the thing Peter always felt, was suddenly there for me.

"I have so many priceless memories of Peter Pan and his fans. There was the day Princess Grace of Monaco brought little Caroline back stage to meet me, and Caroline was so bashful she just stood, silent and big-eyed, looking up.  
The day in San Francisco when a tiny little girl got away from her parents in a theater box, which was within crawling distance of the stage, and suddenly appeared onstage. Three feet tall, all in white with a straw hat, clutching a bouquet of flowers wrapped in lace.  Everyone saw her. She looked terrified. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled across the stage to her. She backed away, so than I backed off and she came toward me. It became like a ballet, back and forth, back and forth. It was clear she longed to touch Peter, but didn't dare. Finally she came close enough to hold out the flowers, which were a little limp by then. Her tiny hand came out. I said, Thank you, little one. May I pick you up?" She shook her head but didn't say a word.  I did pick her up and carried her back to her mother and father. They asked if they could come backstage after the show and I agreed.  We started the show all over again.  Backstage that afternoon the little girl walked in, put her arms around my neck, and kissed me. When I asked what her name was, she didn't reply. She was a deaf-mute, and when she climbed out of that box and walked onto the stage it was the first thing she had ever done all by herself, with no direction.
         Such is the magic of Peter Pan.   For her, for all the thousands of other children, I made a point of never getting out of costume until they had all left the theater. So many of them came back, and it would have been too awful for them to see plain old Mary Martin standing in the dressing room.
         We used to give them all fairy dust; we must have dispensed tons of it.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC      November 16, 1959      A THIRD TONY AWARD
   In her biography My Heart Belongs..... she writes: "The Sound of Music was not a demanding show physically, except for the sheer distance I had to cover. The theater was built on two stories and had a two-story set. My main dressing room was on the second floor of the theater itself, but I also had a quick-change room on the second story of the set, and two other quick-change rooms on either side of the stage itself, in the wings. My darling Richard, who loved statistics, put a pedometer on me once and we found that I walked-ran-three miles at each performance, six miles on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
       In my whole two year run in Sound of Music I missed only one performance. That is not counting the time I almost missed the whole theater. When my car broke down, I had to get out and get a taxi. Driver asked where I was going.  I didn't know. I never knew addresses, never could remember the name of theaters.  So I said, Well, uh, wherever Sound of Music is performing, do you know where that is? He didn't . I couldn't confess I'd been playing it for two years and didn't know where the theater was, so I just said,' Let me out please', jumped into another taxi whose driver  knew where it was and he delivered me there on time."

Mary as Maria 
"Everyone in every profession has little secrets. tricks of the trade. I began to learn mine in One Touch of Venus. The walk, the rehearsal in costume. I had fifteen costume changes  and I always rehearsed in muslin copies of each costume.  I also learned that one can change one's size. Sono Osato, a young ballerina in the cast, could see I was nervous about not looking like Venus. I am only 5'4 1/2 inches and I longed to be six feet tall. Sono came to me one day and said: "you can make yourself an inch taller by the way you stand, the way you think.  Rehearse always in the highest heels you're going to wear in the show. Think tall. Keep your head up; think tall from your solar plexus up. Never relax. Stand straight, think tall. In the audience they'll think you're the tallest person they ever saw."  The high heels which helped me look tall disturbed my precious motion. They clicked. I was sure goddesses didn't click. I had tiny rubber caps put on the heels, and from that day forward I have always had rubber-capped heels in the theater. I can move freely without a distracting noise.
  I also had a gesture I did with a long scarf and while I sang I threw it around in grand, sweeping gestures.  My husband Richard complimented me on the way I threw the scarf. I didn't know what moment he was talking about, what gesture.  As a result the next time I couldn't make the scarf move. Richard was devastated and swore he would never again tell me when I did something specific that he liked.
             My close dear friend actress Janet Gaynor gave me an inspirational book she read every day, Around the Year by Emmet Fox.  There is a poem from it which I have never forgotten.
"Do not dissect things too much.  By the time you have dissected a living thing, you have killed it. And you no longer have the thing you began with.."  And she advised me when you start analyzing something, then you aren't you anymore."

Resources:  Mary Martin. My Heart Belongs. Warner Books. 1977

Mary Martin washing that man out of her hair.
Still:  South Pacific

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

(November 24, 1849 - October 29, 1924)

British-American novelist and playwright who penned three internationally famous novels: Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885-1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden(1911).

"I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden."  Frances Hodgson Burnett

"Two things cannot be in one place. Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow."  Frances Hodgson Burnett

She was born in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, England, the third of five children of an ironmonger and a mother from a well-to-do Manchester family. The good life was not to last long for the Hodgsons.  In 1852 with a fifth child on the way, her father died of a stroke leaving the family without an income.  She was cared for by her grandmother while her mother ran the family business.
Her grandmother bought her books which in turn taught her to love reading. The Flower Girl, her first book had colored illustrations and poems.  Her mother moved with her children to a new home where they lived with relatives in a home that included a large enclosed garden which became her playground.     Perhaps because of the dire living conditions she endured, she developed a very active imagination and wrote stories in old notebooks.  She enthused over Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel
Uncle Tom's Cabin and spent hours acting out scenes from the book.  She and her siblings were sent to be educated at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentlemen where she was described as 'precocious' and 'romantic'.
               Manchester's cotton economy was ruined by the American Civil War and in 1863 her uncle William Boond asked the family to join him in Knoxville, TN, where he had a thriving dry goods store. In 1865 the Hodgson family emigrated to the United States.  Poverty still hung in the shadows when the uncle lost much of his business and her family went to live in a log cabin outside Knoxville.   They then moved to a home in Knoxville she dubbed "Noah's Ark", Mt. Ararat' inspired by the house's location atop an isolated hill.   She became a writer to earn money and was published in Godey's Lady's Book in 1868. Her stories also appeared in Scribner's Monthly, Peterson's Magazine, and Harper's Bazaar.    In an effort to escape from the family's poverty, she tended to overwork, thus calling herself 'a pen driving machine'.  By 1869 she had earned enough to move her family into a better home in Knoxville. After her mother's death in 1870 she returned to England for an extended visit.    What followed were a series of episodes that included: her marriage to Swan Burnett, an eye and ear specialist;  The birth of two sons--Lionel (1874) and a first full-length novel,
That Lass o' Lowrie's; birth of a second son Vivien.  She made clothing for her sons which was frilly and designed velvet suits with lace collars for them. She also allowed her sons' hair to grow long, which she then shaped into long curls.   And that is how Little Lord Fauntleroy was born!

After the publication of That Lass o' Lowries she became known as a rising young novelist, established a household in Washington D.C. and began work on Haworth's (1879) as well as writing a dramatic interpretation of That Lass o' Lowries's in response to a pirated stage version in London.
      After a visit to Boston where she met Louisa May Alcott (celebrating her 184th birthday November 29, 2016) and Mary Mapes Dodge, editor of
St. Nicholas, a children's magazine, she began to write children's fiction.
     In 1881 she wrote the play Esmeralda in collaboration with
William Gillette which became the longest running play on Broadway in the 19th century.  (Mary Pickford  starred in the silent film in 1915).
     Despite exhaustion and depression from work, family and household maintenance, she became well known in Washington society and hosted a literary salon on Tuesday evenings with celebrated guests. She also suffered from the heat in D.C..  In the early 1880s she became interested in Christian Science as well as Spiritualism and Theosophy.
                                       She began work on Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1884 with a serialization in
St. Nicholas (1885) and the book publication in 1886.  Receiving good reviews, it became a bestseller in the U.S. and England, was translated into 12 languages and secured her reputation as a writer.

She attended Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887, the beginning of many transatlantic trips from the United States to England. Not being able to stand the heat and crowds in the U.K., she took her sons to Florence.  That winter Sara Crewe or What Happened at Miss Michin's was published in the United States. She adapted it into a stage play and later rewrote the story into A Little Princess.

Tragedy struck in 1890 when her eldest son died from consumption in Paris. She sank into a deep depression.    She sought the distraction of charity work, forming the Drury Lane Boys' Club in 1892.   In 1893 she published an autobiography, devoted to her eldest son, The One I Knew Best of All. 

She continued to write novels as a source of income.  Her controversial divorce from Swan Burnett in which she used the cause as desertion (they had orchestrated the dissolution of their marriage some years earlier) was criticized by the press.  They referred to her as a New Woman with the Washington Post writing that the divorce resulted from her "advanced ideas regarding the duties of a wife and the rights of

From the mid-1890s she lived in England at Maytham Hall--which had a large garden where she indulged her love of flowers and resembled a feudal manor house. She socialized in the local villages and enjoyed the country life. After a rather bizarre courtship and marriage to a would be actor ten years younger than her who wanted her money and complete control as a husband, she ended the marriage.

Maytham Hall had a series of walled gardens and in the rose garden she wrote several books; it was there that she had the idea for The Secret Garden in 1904.

It was initially published in serial form beginning in 1910, and first published in its entirety in 1911.  It is now one of Burnett's most popular novels, and considered a classic of children's literature. Several stage and film adaptations have been made.

Several major themes permeate the story.  Rejuvenation: the growth in the garden and Mary is the book's central symbol.  Using the garden motif, she explores the healing power inherent in living things.   Sensibility: There is struggle between common sense and the accepted wisdom of the day, in which common sense wins.  Overcoming trauma:  Both Mary and Colin undergo a great deal of trauma in their childhood. The effects in this book are not glossed over.   The author teaches her audience how trauma can affect children, but also about their resiliency.  Magical realism: the power of positive thinking and belief it can bring about psychological and physical healing.  Burnett was a follower of Christian Science, with its belief in God as a life force rather than a person.

In 2012 it was ranked number 15 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal which has a U.S. audience.

In 1936 a memorial sculpture (pictured here)
by Bessie Potter Vonnoh was erected in Frances' honor in Central Park's Conservatory Garden.  It depicts her two famous Secret Garden characters:  Mary and Dickon.

"If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden."   The Secret Garden

"There's naught as nice as th' smell o' good clean earth, except th' smell o' fresh growin' things when th' rain falls on 'em."
Dickon  The Secret Garden

She wrote fifty novels between 1877 and 1922. She dramatized thirteen of them and involved herself in the rehearsals of all her plays.   Not only did she write for a huge audience, but she also fought for the rights of ownership in works of fiction.  Her legal action in 1888 to establish her claim to the dramatic rights of her famous story Little Lord Fauntleroy effectively stopped unauthorized dramatizations of novels in England.  The 1911 Copyright Act was a direct result of her action.  The Authors' Association of England celebrated her victory at a banquet and presented her with a diamond bracelet and an illuminated memorial inscribed with the names of many leading writers of the time.  During her lifetime she made a lasting contribution to juvenile literature.

Resources:   Wikipedia
Rosemary Gipson.  Notable Women in the American Theatre, A Biographical Dictionary 1989


Saturday, November 12, 2016

MARIE JENNEY HOWE (1870 - 1934)
Feminist organizer, leading suffragist, founder of Heterodoxy in 1912 for "women who did things and did them openly." It was a gathering place for suffragettes, feminists, radicals, labor organizers and professional women who met twice a month to dispute topics such as women's rights, pacifism, birth control, revolutionary politics and civil rights.

"To her life was not a man's thing, it was a human thing. It was to be enjoyed by women as it was by men; there should be equality in all things, not in the ballot alone but in the mind, in work, in a career."     Frederic Clemson Howe, husband

Drawing on domestic traditions of parlor plays and dramatic tableaux, suffragists used brief plays and monologues to enliven their own meetings and to enlist new members through performances at women's clubs and community theaters.  She wrote the Anti-suffrage Monologue also known as Someone has to wash the Dishes in 1912 for the drama group of the New York Woman's Suffrage Party and other suffrage organizations. She parodied anti-suffragist arguments that relied on stereotypes of female dependence, irrationality, and delicacy even as they also warned that women voters would exert too much power.
(Resource: History Matters, the U.S. Survey Course on the Web,


Please do not think of me as old-fashioned.  I pride myself on being a modern up-to-date woman. I believe in all kinds of broad-mindedness, only I do not believe in woman suffrage because to do that would be to deny my sex.

Woman suffrage is the reform against nature.  Look at these ladies sitting on the platform. Observe their physical inability, their mental disability, their spiritual instability and general debility!
Could they walk up to the ballot box, mark a ballot, and drop it in?  Obviously not. Let us grant for the sake of argument that they could mark a ballot. But could they drop it in? Ah, no. All nature is against it. The laws of man cry out against it. The voice of God cries out against it--and so do I.

Enfranchisement is what makes man man.  Disfranchisement is what makes woman woman. If women were enfranchised every man would be just like a woman and every woman would be just like a man. There would be no difference between them. And don't you think this would rob life of just a little of its poetry and romance?

My first argument against suffrage is that the women would not use it if they had it. You couldn't drive them to the polls. My second argument is, if the women were enfranchised they would neglect their homes, desert their families, and spend all their time at the polls.  You may tell me that the polls are only open once a year. But I know women. They are creatures of habit. If you let them go to the polls once a year, they will hang round the polls all the time.

If the women were enfranchised they would vote exactly as their husbands do and only double the existing vote.  If the women were enfranchised they would vote against their own husbands, thus creating dissension, family quarrels, and divorce.

.....Women cannot understand politics. Therefore there would be no use in giving women political power, because they would not know what to do with it. On the other hand, if the women were enfranchised, they would mount rapidly into power, take all the offices from all the men, and soon we would have governors of all our states and dozens of women acting as President of the United States.

I have talked to many woman suffragists and I find them very unreasonable. I say to them: "Here I am, convince me." I ask for proof. Then they proceed to tell me of Australia and Colorado and other places where women have passed excellent laws to improve the condition of working women and children.  But I say, "What of it?" I ask for proof.

Then they quote the eight million women of the United States who are now supporting themselves, and the twenty-five thousand married women in the city of New York who are self-supporting.  I don't believe in statistics.   I wish to prove anti-suffrage in a womanly way, that is, by personal example.  This is my method of persuasion. Once I saw a woman driving a horse, and the horse ran away with her.  Isn't that just like a woman?  Once I read in the newspapers about a woman whose house caught on fire, and she threw the children out of the window and carried the pillows downstairs.  Does that show political acumen?  Besides, look at the hats that women wear! Have you ever known a successful woman governor of a state?  Or have you ever known a really truly successful woman  president of the United States? Well if they could they would, wouldn't they?
As for the militant suffragettes, they are all hyenas in petticoats.

I know the suffragists reply that all our activities have been taken out of the home. The baking, the washing, the weaving, the spinning are all long since taken out of the home. I say all the more reason that something should stay in the home. Let it be woman. Besides, think of the modern invention, the telephone. That has been put into the home. Let women stay at home and answer the telephone.

Let us consider the argument from the standpoint of religion. The Bible says, "Let the women keep silent in the churches," Paul says, "Let them keep their hats on for fear of the angels." My minister says, "Wives, obey your husbands." And my husband says that woman suffrage would rob the rose of its fragrance and the peach of its bloom. I think that is so sweet.

Besides did George Washington ever say, "Votes for women?" No. Did the Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm ever say "Votes for women?" No. Did Elijah, Elisha, Micah, Hezekiah, Obadiah, and Jeremiah ever say, "Votes for women?" No. Then that settles it.

.....Have you ever pictured to yourself Election Day with women voting? Can you imagine how women, having undergone this terrible ordeal, with their delicate systems all upset, will come out of the voting booths and be led away by policemen, and put into ambulances, while they are fainting and weeping, half laughing, half crying, and having fits upon the public highway?  Don't you think if a woman is going to have a fit, it is far better for her to have it in the privacy of her own home?
And how shall I picture to you the terrors of the day after election?  Divorce and death will rage unchecked, crime and contagious disease will stalk unbridled through the land. Oh, friends, on this subject I feel---I feel, so strongly that I can--not think!

Resource:  Wikipedia  Marie Jenney Howe
#heterodoxy  #NationalWoman'sParty  #NewYorkWoman'sSuffrageParty #MarieJenneyHowe
#feminist #suffragist

Friday, October 21, 2016

TERESA WRIGHT (October 27, 1918 - March 6, 2005)
was interviewed by famed publicist John Springer at the Players on January 25, 1998 about her life and career on stage and screen.

Her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination occurred in 1941 for her debut work in
The Little Foxes.  She did win an Oscar for her performance as the daughter in Mrs. Miniver co-starring with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.

Top film directors, including William Wyler and
Alfred Hitchcock admired her thorough preparation and quiet professionalism.  (source: Wikipedia)

THE INTERVIEW  (transcribed by Mari Lyn Henry)

JS:       Did you always want to be an actress?

TW:     Yes I did. As a very small child, I acted through high school, voted best actress in school, that sort of thing, came to New York after graduation.  Two months later I got a job understudying
Dorothy McGuire in Our Town out on the road and played it.  My first job in New York was in
Life With Father in 1939.
            I celebrated my 21st birthday in the theatre, in the beautiful Empire Theatre.
Russel Crouse walked down the aisle with a birthday cake singing Happy Birthday to You. It doesn't get much better than that.

JS:      Who was smart enough to get you out to Hollywood? Was it Sam Goldwyn?

TW:   I think it was.  I was told that Lillian Hellman saw me in Life With Father and suggested me
to Willy Wyler and to Goldwyn.  Oscar Serlin made my test.  (During Life With Father I had been asked to do a screen test for a role in a film I really wasn't right for. They put a lot of makeup on me and told me which way to turn.  It was awful!  So Oscar suggested if I was ever asked to do another one he would be glad to do it.)   Thank God he (who had made a lot of tests in his life) heard about it and said when it is really important for you to be in something, let me make the test. So when
Goldwyn wanted to see some film on me he just brought me into a studio without any makeup and just talked to me and that was my screen test for The Little Foxes, my first film.

JS:     For her very first film she got her very first Academy Award nomination.

TW:  I was so lucky. It was a great film to start with.  Willy Wyler directed. Bette Davis,
Herbert Marshall, such a wonderful cast!   Then I was asked to come back to New York and do a
play by Ferenc Molnar and fortunately I was asked to return to Hollywood and do the role in
Mrs. Miniver.  Then the day after I finished that I went into Pride of the Yankees.
         An unusual beginning; it didn't last very long but it was great while it lasted.

JS:   You may be the only performer who was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in the same year.  Mrs. Miniver and as far as I am concerned you should have won for Pride of the Yankees.  There were other pictures for which you should have been nominated--The Best Years of Our Lives and Shadow of a Doubt.

TW:   Those are my two favorite films. One of my favorite roles was not in a film, but in a movie for television.  The American Movie Classic, Ring Lardner Jr.'s  Golden Honeymoon with
James Whitmore.  It was a charming story.

Teresa Wright in Mrs. Miniver
JS:  Let me throw out some names of people you have been associated with.  Anything you can say or want to say about them.
Alfred Hitchock (Shadow of A Doubt)

TW:  He was a delight to work with when I was working with him. The film was one of the first on location, instead of on a studio set. This was in 1942.  His whole family was with him, Pat (his daughter) and Alma (his wife). It was like being with a family. Joe Cotten and his wife were there.  Hitchock was great fun.  It was more like being in a play than being in a film.

JS: You mentioned Bette Davis. She was kind of intimidating for a girl in her first move, wasn't she?

TW:  I was scared before I met her. It was overwhelming. The day I met her I was on the Goldwyn lot and I went into what was the Goldwyn dining room, a little bungalow, and I was talking to some friends and my back was to the door and she came in. I guess I heard her voice and I just had chills down my back.  I was introduced to her, but once I got on the set it was just like being with any other actor in a play, on stage, in rehearsal and she was wonderful!  All the stories about being difficult--the old mill really grinds them up you know. Not any truth in it at all.

JS:   Gary Cooper.

TW:  He was just dear. I didn't feel that I knew him well because for the most part he kept to himself. He used to whittle, sitting there whittling airplanes, and when we weren't working he'd be outside flying them.

JS:  Frederic March.

TW:  I adored Freddy. He was also a good friend. He and his wife Florence (Eldridge) lived near
Bob (Robert Anderson) and I in Bridgewater, CT. We saw a great deal of them.  He was marvelous and very much the spirit of The Best Years of Our Lives.  

JS:  How about Joseph Cotten?

TW:  Joe was very funny. When we were making Shadow of a Doubt we were on location in Santa Rosa, close to the Chinese community in San Francisco. One evening we were treated to a very ancient Chinese feast and Joe kept commenting about all the strange exotic dishes (like hundred year old eggs) and he was hilarious.

JS:   Bob Mitchum.

TW:  Bob was one of the most unusual people I ever worked with. He had a bad boy reputation. For some reason he liked to appear as not caring, not knowing his lines.  He would come in and say what is the scene, what are we doing today, and so forth. Then he would go on and he would know it word perfect. It is a strange kind of psychological thing to let people think you don't care and then be absolutely marvelous on screen.  If you really looked at his face there was always something going on in his eyes and you got it.  That's what pictures really are.

JS:   Marlon Brando who did his first film with you.

TW:  A little bit like Mitchum in that he would like to kid around off stage. He would tell the tallest tales and behave like a twelve year old but on stage he was completely---I mean none of us could touch him in The Men. He was so marvelous and so that person and the rest of us were acting.
On set in those days Marlon was not only good but he didn't want to do anything that was wrong or would rock the boat in any way.  He wanted to learn all about films.
         There was a scene that was very tense and long where the camera had to come in and out, and the technicians would move the carpet as the camera came. When you have done films, you learn not to think about crew members moving around. Between takes, he would ask what they were doing. So I told him that they had to move the carpet for the camera to move in easily. But if it bothered him they were able to do it ten different ways and all you have to do is request that.  He said no. So I went to director Fred Zinnemann and told him about Marlon's question and my response. Fred asked them to do it differently.  That is how much Marlon did not want to rock the boat.  I felt Marlon became disillusioned as an actor, perhaps frightened to go back to the stage. When I think of what he did in
The Godfather, he really is a great, great actor and that shouldn't be forgotten.

JS:   Dame May Whitty. (During filming of Mrs. Miniver)

TW:  Richard Ney (Greer Garson's son in Mrs. Miniver and husband in real life) was just not one of my favorite people. He was difficult to act with. He affected a British accent in his speech throughout the filming.  One day he and Dame May Whitty had a scene together in a swing. It had to be done over and over.  Finally she said, (British and grand) "Dear boy, would you please speak up? I cannot understand you."  And he said, "All right I'll do it your way but I prefer it my way." And she said,
"Your way? You don't have a way!"  Everyone broke up.

JS:  Director Francis Ford Coppola and The Rainmaker? (adaptation of John Grisham's book)
She played role of Miss Birdie in 1997.

TW: I was in the film two weeks. We had a week's rehearsal which I haven't done since the days of William Wyler and Hitchcock.  It makes such a difference when you get to rehearse, really work on something and we had a week's rehearsal in Napa Valley. From there we went to Memphis where we had a week's rehearsal. When we were on the set, I remember the first scene I did. Francis said, "Well we are going to rehearse this on film to get us into it." And that was the take. He likes to do that because we had already rehearsed.

JS:  During the war when we first saw you in Mrs. Miniver, I was with a group of guys who had a crush on you. The other guys had a crush on Betty Grable and Jane Russell. For a long time after I got married my wife could not quite understand that--until today.

Before the interview there was a screening of The Actress starring Ms. Wright, Jean Simmons and Spencer Tracy.  Anthony Perkins made his screen debut in this film.  It was directed by George Cukor and was based on the play Years Ago by Ruth Gordon.  John Springer asked her: "In the business atmosphere of the 1950s, what was your agent's reaction to your leaping from ingenue roles to the mother's role in The Actress?  She didn't remember she had as much screen time as she did.  "It probably couldn't have been better cast. It was lovely working with Jean and Spencer and George. I wasn't old enough for the role, just ten years older than Jean, and today it would be cast better."
Before the beginning of the screening, she had received a telegram from Ruth Gordon which said, "I never thought I'd see the day when you would be playing my mother!"

Monday, October 10, 2016

(October 10, 1900 - October 10, 2016)

In 1972, Helen Hayes and her best friend
Anita Loos collaborated on a book about their 'trip back down' odyssey of rediscovering the fabulous New York city that they so loved.
What emerged was Twice Over Lightly: New York Then and Now.

When Ms. Hayes was asked at a luncheon in her honor, "What do you think we're doing on Broadway that's wrong?

Her reflections on the past, present and future of Broadway were shared with the honesty, passion and love of the theatre that she embraced for over seven decades.

       Well, I think we've become too earnest. We've forgotten that the main function of a player is to play.  I wish we'd all relax and put on some gay, glamorous shows with actors wearing beautiful romantic clothes.
        I think Broadway started to slip when we began to take ourselves seriously as Artists, and spelled it out in capital letters.  We strained for what we called 'artistic integrity.' The trouble was that too many of us mistook pretensions for integrity.  We've been sold on the idea that truth has got to be ugly, depressing, vulgar. In recent years we've tried so hard to strip the theatre of beauty that we've stripped some actors of their costumes.  Let's see what can be done to put clothes back on actors.
       Well, I'd like to see our commercial theatre relieved of its phony pretensions to Art. In all the years I've been in the theatre, I can count the number of great artists I've encountered on the fingers of one hand.   But I've worked with plenty of real pros like me. We adored our jobs, developed and used what talents we had to the limit of our capabilities.  If we fell short of greatness we weren't undone by that so long as audiences liked and appreciated us.
       That was the time when we only hoped to please the public who paid to see us. But now they are the last thing we ever think about.  We only aim to please ourselves and to impress other actors or the critics, whom we pretend to despise.
      Time was when there was a love affair between the theatre and the public, and because love creates a magical illusion we loved ones behind the footlights---those dear, kind footlights!--walked in beauty.  People came to the theatre to see us enacting lives of vivid color, in elegant speech and in gorgeous clothes---all in an aura of Du Barry Pink light.  It was not Art; it was not Truth. But it sure was comforting.  I'd love to see a matinee idol again, suave, impeccably tailored, breaking hearts with a light touch. Or an improbably chic Ina Claire changing Chanel creations eight times a performance and never being caught with her wit down.
      Yes, I'd like to see the commercial theatre relieved of the burden of 'Art' and free to caper.
Let's revive our love affair with the public.  If people really care, they'll find their way back to us. If only we can start people caring again, Broadway will come back."