Thursday, September 20, 2012

Theatre, Musical Comedy, Film and Opera

This is the old I Miller shoe store building at the southeast corner of 46th and Broadway, whose façade was (until recently) hidden by billboards.  

The statues date from 1929.  The story goes that Israel Miller, the owner of the store and the building, handed out ballots to his customers to pick their favorite actresses in drama, musical comedy, film, and opera.  When the results came in, Miller commissioned sculptor Alexander Calder to make statues of the winners.

The most recognizable, at least as far as name goes, is probably Ethel Barrymore, who played Ophelia opposite Walter Hampden as Hamlet in the fall of 1925 at the Hampden’s Theatre on Broadway and 62nd, and the National Theatre on 41st and Seventh, which is now the Nederlander.

When Marilyn Miller was the star of Sunny in 1925, at the New Amsterdam, she was the highest-paid performer on Broadway.  She came to fame in the 1918 Ziegfeld Follies, when she impersonated Ziegfeld’s wife Billie Burke (aka Glinda the Good Witch of the North) in the number, “Mine Was a Marriage of Convenience.”  A rumored affair with Ziegfeld followed, after which she starred in 1920’s Sally, in which she debuted the song “Look For The Silver Lining,” and inspired a poem by Dorothy Parker (reprinted in the recent Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker collection).  Both Sally and Sunny were made into films, and are available from Warner Archives.

Co-founder of both United Artists and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, married to Douglas Fairbanks, and known for most of her long life as “America's Sweetheart," Mary Pickford was born Gladys Marie Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which makes the America in her title continental rather than national.  She starred as Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1921, which made $900,000, or about $12 million bucks in current Cash Lite.  She also made The Taming Of The Shrew with Fairbanks in 1929, which is famous in film and theatrical circles for the legendary credit: “‘Additional dialogue by Sam Taylor.” 

"The greatest singer of us all."  "The Queen of Queens in all of singing." These are the verdicts of Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti on coloratura soprano Rosa Ponselle. “Discovered” by Enrico Caruso, who heard her sing with her sister Carmela and arranged for her to get an audition with the Metropolitan Opera, Ponselle signed  a contract for the 1918-1919 season and never looked back.   Four days after World War I ended, she made her debut opposite Caruso in Verdi’s La Forza Del Destino; she played the title role in Bellini’s Norma, the role that many considered her greatest achievement, in 1927.

1 comment:

Molly said...

Nifty blog. I must walk over there -- in daylight -- to have a look.