Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lloyd Richards, known for his well-wrought mid-century melodramas, which often starred Margo Channing, has died at 95 at his home just two hours north of New York City. Mr. Richards was born in 1915 in Lawrence, Kansas. After completing his doctorate in English at the University of Iowa, he worked at the drama desk of the Chicago Tribune before serving with distinction in the Office of War Information (OWI) during World War II.
His first major success on the New York stage, Lightning Strikes Terry Jones, premiered at the Lyceum Theater on April 13, 1946 and remained there for the next two seasons.
The bittersweet domestic comedy, starring Jose Ferrer, Judith Evelyn, and, in a rare legit appearance, Helen Lawson, won Richards instant acclaim. In his Times review, Brooks Atkinson found Richards to have "an uncommonly fine ear for both the sordid nonsense and the dogged temerity of married life," and called the play "an astonishingly fresh vision of what post-war American drama could achieve."
In 1947, Richards lectured at Radcliffe and met his wife Karen Richards (nee Bradman) who survives him. Later that year he was to meet Margo Channing at a cocktail party at the home of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine in Genessee Depot, Wisconsin. Immediately and presciently, he wrote to his friend William Saroyan that he had found his muse. in the next three days as a guest of the Lunts, he turned out what was to become one of his most enduring successes, Avis Rara, the first of seven Richards dramas to star Channing.
It was followed successively by Selma's Sweet Caprice, The Last Soubrette, Abelard and Hell, Louise, Aged in Wood, Footsteps on the Ceiling, Awash in Lather, and Ten Cents a Laugh.
All of these were to star Channing with one exception. In 1950 the star was to turn down the role of Cora, an unhappy young housewife [in Footsteps on the Ceiling], finding it inappropriate for an actress of advancing years just beginning her own long marriage to longtime lover and collaborator, the director Bill Sampson, who helmed all of Richards' Broadway triumphs.
Cora instead famously went to Eve Harrington, Channing's understudy in Aged in Wood, made her a star and won for the Sarah Siddons Award for Distinction in the Theatre.
Miss Harrington, never to appear on the stage again, made a splash in several films of the early 1950's (most impressively in Otto Preminger's Wings of Clay opposite Dana Andrews for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe award as best newcomer) but retired from acting in 1954 when she married Anglo-Indonesian rubber tycoon Artie "Scags" Banks.
Mr. Banks mysterious death in Singapore the following year led to scandal when Miss Harrington was accused of murder. Although she was acquitted, the story drudged up sordid rumors of an earlier affair with Richards during the New Haven tryouts of Footsteps on the Ceiling.
Herald Tribune Columnist Addison de Witt, who had dated Harrington during this period, denied the rumors in memoirs published in 1963, A Pretext Too Piquant, but admitted his suspicions that Harrington had indeed murdered Banks.
Miss Harrington died penniless of Grote's disease in Milwaukee in 1966. The introduction by Karen Richards of Miss Harrington, then a stagestruck waif, to Margo Channing during the run of Aged in Wood remains catnip to theater aficionados, and was the subject of a 1983 play, Two Very Dry Martinis and a Gibson Girl, penned by Richards protege Wendy Wasserstein.
Other works by Richards include two screenplays, One Night in Tenerife (a mostly forgotten Paulette Goddard-Fred MacMurray comedy directed by Mitchell Leisen) and an ill-fated adaptation of Middlemarch (starring Betty Hutton as Dorothea Brooke, a casting choice often cited as one of Darryl Zanuck's most legendary mistakes) directed by Henry Hathaway; a strangely oblique children's story, Margo and Karen Lunch at 21, illustrated by Charles Addams, and a collection of memoirs heralding the demise of American theater acting, Gone Are The [Days] (1969, Random House).
Main Entry: hom·age
Pronunciation: \ˈä-mij, ˈhä-\
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French homage, omage, from home man, vassal, from Latin homin-, homo human being; akin to Old English guma human being, Latin humus earth — more at humble
Date: 14th century
1 a : a feudal ceremony by which a man acknowledges himself the vassal of a lord b : the relationship between a feudal lord and his vassal c : an act done or payment made in meeting the obligations of vassalage
2 a : expression of high regard : respect —often used with pay b : something that shows respect or attests to the worth or influence of another : tribute--his long life filled with international homages to his unique musical talent — People
This brilliant post came from an anonymous poster over at www.datalounge.com. Hugh Marlowe is smiling somewhere in the after life.