Sunday, August 28, 2011
HELLO, IRENE! Celebrating Irene Ryan and Irene Malloy!
(Thank you, Sunny Leigh!)
At least I hope it is. I hope that my friends, family, and colleagues are all safe and sound. Irene has made her way up the cost and as I write these words, she is on her way to Newport, Rhode Island. Many of us have joke about it. We have condemned the media coverage, decisions that our mayor and others made in terms of shutting down New York. I have seen others write on Facebook that it was a "tempest in a teapot". But the truth of the matter is that this storm DID cause a lot of damage, many are without power, and there have been fatalities.
Once again, I urge all to take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are (if we are indeed lucky) and to think of those who have suffered loss,,,whether it be material or Life.
Today's blog is dedicated to Alice Playten who was Ermengarde in the original production of HELLO, DOLLY! Today is her birthday. We lost her earlier this year MUCH TOO SOON!
Yesterday, I wrote about the 1973 musical, Irene, which starred Debbie Reynolds.
Today, I'm writing about two Irenes, Irene Ryan and Irene Malloy!
Walter Willison sent me the following when I told him I was writing about Irene Ryan ,"Irene Ryan was one of the closest and dearest friends I have ever been blessed with. Before we met I had already fallen in love with her as "Granny" Clampett, and on the first day of rehearsals for PIPPIN, we became instant best friends, despite the nearly fifty-year difference in our ages. Being on and off-stage with her was pure joy. She taught me much about living life to the fullest. No wonder she stopped the show nightly when she advised the audience it was "Time to start livin'!" It was the truth, she really meant it. Irene was one of the kindest, most generous, most supportive and most loving people I have ever known, and nearly forty years after her passing not a day goes by that I do not think of her. Irene used to say "Don't be sad when I'm gone. No one ever really dies, they just go on tour." Beside my desk always is a lovely portrait she gave me, of herself as Pippin's "Granny", and when I look at it I can't help but smile, because I know that wherever she's playing tonight, she's still stopping the show."
These are all who have given us so much. Here in New York, we've been asked not to leave our homes. The rains seemed to have come and gone, now it is the winds we need to concern ourselves with. The only thing that would really make this day and take away from a little stir-crazy would be a BEVERLY HILLBILLIES marathon! Now those of you who know me and regularly follow my blogs know that I am a product of 60s and 70s television!
The Beverly Hillbillies is an American situation comedy originally broadcast for nine seasons on CBS from 1962 to 1971, starring Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas, and Max Baer, Jr.
Boy, do I LOVE this show and especially Granny! When I posted last night that my blog today would be about famous Irenes. I was thrilled at the response I got and especially one in particular, Walter Willison, who happened to be great friends of Irene's in the last year of her life. He worked with Irene on Pippin which, of course, was Irene's last big hurrah.
He said the first day of rehearsal, he was so excited that he was going to be working with Irene! He went up to her and said "I love you so much." She said "I love you, too" and that was it. They were friends till the end. She died while she was doing that show. And, no she did not die on stage as legend goes. She died on the west coast.
The Beverly Hillbillies is about a poor backwoods family transplanted to Beverly Hills, California, after striking oil on their land. A Filmways production created by writer Paul Henning, it is the first in a genre of "fish out of water" themed television shows, and was followed by other Henning inspired country-cousin series on CBS. In 1963, Henning introduced "Petticoat Junction" and in 1965 he reversed the rags to riches model for Green Acres. The show paved the way for later culture-conflict programs such as McCloud, The Nanny, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Doc.
Panned by many entertainment critics of its time, it quickly became a huge ratings success for most of its nine-year run on CBS.
The Beverly Hillbillies ranked among the top twelve most watched series on television for seven of its nine seasons, twice ranking as the number one series of the year, with a number of episodes that remain among the most watched television episodes of all time.
The Beverly Hillbillies series starts with the OK Oil Company learning of oil in Jed Clampett's swamp land and paying him a fortune to acquire the rights to drill on his land. Patriarch Jed moves with his family into a mansion next door to his banker (Milburn Drysdale) in the wealthy Los Angeles County city of Beverly Hills, California, where he brings a moral, unsophisticated, and minimalistic lifestyle to the swanky, sometimes self-obsessed and superficial community. The theme song introduces the viewer to the world's most fortunate hunting accident – whereby Jed shoots at game but instead hits "Black Gold, Texas tea": he had discovered oil.
Double entendres and cultural misconceptions were the core of the sitcom's humor. Frequently, plots involved the outlandish efforts taken by Drysdale to keep the Clampetts in Beverly Hills and their money in his bank.
The family's periodic attempts to return to the mountains were often prompted by Granny due to a perceived slight she received from one of the "city-folk." The Beverly Hillbillies accumulated seven Emmy nominations during its run. Nearly a half century since its premiere, the series remains in syndication on several cable networks, including TV Land.
The Hillbillies themselves were Buddy Ebsen as the widowed patriarch Jed "J.D." Clampett; Irene Ryan as his ornery mother-in-law, Daisy May "Granny" Moses; Donna Douglas as his curvaceous, tom-boy daughter Elly May Clampett; and Max Baer, Jr. as Jethro, the brawny, half-witted son of his cousin Pearl Bodine.
Pearl (played by Bea Benaderet) appeared in most of the first season episodes, as did Jethro's twin sister Jethrine, played by Baer in drag, using Linda Kaye Henning's voiceover.
Pearl was the relative who prodded Jed to move to California, after being told his modest property could yield $25 million.
Irene Ryan (October 17, 1902 – April 26, 1973) was an American actress, one of the few entertainers who found success in vaudeville, radio, film, television and Broadway.
We lost her in 1973. My blog yesterday was all about the events of 1973 when Irene, the musical, opened on Broadway. (Thank you, Walter Willison, for this!)Some reports claim that Irene Ryan, who was born Irene Noblette, was born in El Paso, Texas. She was born to an American father and an Irish immigrant mother. Love you Irene, and thanks for the laughter!
And now, to that other Irene...Irene Malloy!
Though the source of "The Matchmaker" is a 19th-century Viennese comedy, Thornton Wilder made his version archetypally American by creating the character of Dolly Gallagher Levi. That flamboyant woman has entered our mythology through the musical adaptation, "Hello, Dolly!," as well as the Wilder play. She is the busiest of busybodies, poking into everyone else's affairs while arranging a marriage for herself with that miserly old merchant of Yonkers, Horace Vandergelder.
But I want to focus today on Irene Malloy!(Widow Irene Molloy (Pat Zenone) owns a hat shop. Irene wants a husband but does not love Horace Vandergelder. She declares that she will wear an elaborate hat to impress a gentleman. SOURCE: YOUTUBE)
Irene Malloy, of course is a character originally in The Merchant of Yonkers by Thornton Wilder which became The Matchmaker which became Hello, Dolly! It even goes further back! John Oxenford's 1835 one-act farce A Day Well Spent had been extended into a full-length play entitled Einen Jux will er sich machen by Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy in 1842.
Wilder adapted Nestroy's version into an Americanized comedy entitled The Merchant of Yonkers, which revolves around Horace Vandergelder, a wealthy Yonkers, New York businessman in the market for a wife.
When The Merchant of Yonkers opened on Broadway in 1938, Irene Malloy was played by June Walker, June Walker was the mother of the actor John Kerr (Tea and Symathy) and it is well known in the business that his father was not Geoffrey Kerr, the actor who was Walker's husband at the time, but Franchot Tone (there is even a strong resemblance.)June Walker (June 14, 1900 – February 3, 1966) was an American stage and film actress. She appeared on Broadway in such plays as Green Grow the Lilacs, The Farmer Takes a Wife, and Twelfth Night. She was the first actress to portray the character of Lorelei Lee, in the 1926 Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
When Ruth Gordon played Dolly Levi on Broadway in The Matchmaker, Irene Malloy was played by Eileen Herlie.Just a brief glimpse of the great Eileen Herlie, (who became more well known for playing Myrtle Fargate on All My Children) from the movie, Hamlet.
When The Matchmaker transferred to film starring Shirley Booth as Dolly Levi, Irene Malloy was played by Shirley MacLaine.
When The Matchmaker became HELLO, DOLLY! starring Carol Channing, Irene Malloy was played by Eileen Brennan.
My friend Diane J. Findlay made her Broadway debut with Carol on Broadway, in the Ensemble and covering Eileen, and stepped in for her as Irene on numerous occasions.
Hello, Dolly! was first produced on Broadway by David Merrick in 1964, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical and nine other Tonys. The show album Hello, Dolly! An Original Cast Recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
The show has become one of the most enduring musical theatre hits, enjoying three Broadway revivals and international success.
It was also made into a 1969 film starring Walter Matthau that was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
Marianne McAndrew played Irene Molloy in the film.
McAndrew married actor Stewart Moss in 1970. Four years after they got married, they starred together in The Bat People. McAndrew has two brothers.
Hello, Dolly! was Marianne McAndrew's first credited film role. Despite the casting of film legend Barbra Streisand in the lead over Broadway star Carol Channing, the role of Irene Molloy was given considerably more attention in the film than in earlier Broadway productions.
Hello, Dolly! earned McAndrew two Golden Globe nominations in 1969; Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture and the since discontinued Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress, as well as generally good reviews.
The critical praise, along with the fact that she had landed a fourth billed role in a major movie musical with a big star in the lead as her first credited film role, led some to predict a bright film career for McAndrew.
She landed a starring (second billed) role in her next film (The Seven Minutes), gaining particular attention for appearing nude.
In 1969, McAndrew said "Intellectually, I can understand that nude scenes, in good taste, are honest. All these years we've been dishonest, in showing people in bed fully clothed. But we're going too far the other way. All I can say, I understand it intellectually... but when it comes down to it being me who takes off my clothes, it's scary."
By 1971, she had made appearances in popular TV shows including Hawaii 5-0, Mannix, and Love, American Style.
One notable later film role was her co-starring role in The Bat People, with her husband Stewart Moss.
The film was widely panned, but is still somewhat known today as a "bad film".
The Bat People was also her last film released in theaters; she has only worked in Television since its release. Her only other later role of particular note is her role of Doris Williams in Growing Up Brady, a TV film about the popular show.
McAndrew, along with everything else related to the film Hello, Dolly! experienced something of a resurgence in notoriety with the release of WALL-E, which featured clips from the film, including a duet with McAndrew's character (although McAndrew did not do her own singing in the film, which some news outlets claimed in articles about WALL-E).
Gene Kelly directed the film version of HELLO, DOLLY! producer Ernest Lehman's screenplay. The cast included Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau (in his only movie musical), Michael Crawford, Danny Lockin, Tommy Tune, Fritz Feld, Marianne McAndrew, E. J. Peaker and Louis Armstrong, whose recording of the title tune was a #1 hit in the mid-1960s.
It was photographed in 65 mm Todd-AO by Harry Stradling Sr.
The town of Garrison, New York, was the filming site for scenes in "Yonkers."
In the opening credits, the passenger train is traveling along the Hudson River. Provided by the Strasburg Rail Road, the train is pulled by Pennsylvania Railroad's #1223 (now located in the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania) built up as a New York Central & Hudson River locomotive. The railroad car used "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" was restored specifically for the film, and is still running on the Strasburg Rail Road in Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
The musical, directed and choreographed by Gower Champion, and produced by David Merrick, opened on January 16, 1964 at the St. James Theatre, and closed on December 27, 1970, after 2,844 performances. Carol Channing starred as Dolly, with a supporting cast that included David Burns as Horace, Charles Nelson Reilly as Cornelius, Eileen Brennan as Irene, Jerry Dodge as Barnaby, Sondra Lee as Minnie Fay, Alice Playten as Ermengarde, and Igors Gavon as Ambrose. Although facing stiff competition from Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, Hello, Dolly! swept the Tony Awards that season, winning awards in ten categories (out of eleven nominations), a record that remained unbroken for 37 years until The Producers won twelve Tonys in 2001.
When Channing left the show, Merrick employed a string of big name stars for the role of Dolly, including Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey (in an all-black version with Cab Calloway and Ernestine Jackson), Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Merman, for whom Herman had originally written the show's score. Two songs cut prior to the opening — typical Mermanesque belt style songs "World, Take Me Back" and "Love, Look in My Window" — were restored for her run. Thelma Carpenter played Dolly at all matinees during the Pearl Bailey production and subbed more than 100 times, at one point playing all performances for seven straight weeks.
The show received rave reviews,with "praise for Carol Channing and particularly Gower Champion."
The original production became the longest-running musical (and third longest-running show)in Broadway history up to that time, surpassing My Fair Lady and then being surpassed in turn by Fiddler on the Roof.
The Broadway production of Hello Dolly grossed $27 million. Hello, Dolly! and Fiddler remained the longest-running Broadway record holders for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed them.
When Ginger Rogers became Dolly, Patte Finley became Irene Malloy.
Then it was on to Betty Grable as Dolly with June Helmers as Irene Malloy.
She would do the same opposite Martha Raye, Phyllis Diller, and Ethel Merman.
When Pearl Bailey played Dolly Levi, Irene Malloy was played by Ernestine Jackson.
In 1973, she originated the role of Ruth Younger in Raisin, her performance winning her the Theatre World Award and a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.
Additional Broadway credits include Applause, The Bacchae, and the 1976 all-black revival of Guys and Dolls, for which she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
She also appeared in the 1966 revival of Show Boat at the New York State Theatre and the 1967 revival of Finian's Rainbow at New York City Center.
Jackson portrayed Alberta Hunter in Cookin' at the Cookery: The Music and Times of Alberta Hunter, a revue that originated at the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Florida in 1997 and then toured the country.
She portrayed Billie Holliday in the 2005 Long Wharf Theatre production of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill.
In reviewing her performance, Frank Rizzo of Variety said she "nicely suggests rather than mimics the famous Holiday" and added, "Jackson handles the gliding jazz minimalism beautifully.
She makes Holiday's fleeting happiness a joy and her suffering an art."
Two years later she portrayed legendary entertainer Ethel Waters in Ethel Waters: His Eye is On the Sparrow.
Jackson's feature films include The Bonfire of the Vanities, Freedomland, Steam, and Forged.
On television she has appeared in Roots: The Next Generations, A Man Called Hawk, Law & Order, The West Wing, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
In 1965, when Carol was on tour with Dolly, Joanne Horne joined the company as Irene Malloy.
On a side note, many of these actresses played opposite Bibi Osterwald as Dolly. Bibi Osterwald was the understudy for the title role in ''Hello, Dolly!'' for seven years, and she played the part 122 times, filling in for Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, Phyllis Diller, Martha Raye, Ethel Merman and others.
The show has been revived three times on Broadway: November 6, 1975 - December 28, 1975, Minskoff Theatre - Starring Pearl Bailey and Billy Daniels in an all-black production (42 performances) with Mary Louise as Irene Malloy.
March 5, 1978 - July 9, 1978, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre - Starring Carol Channing (147 performances)with Florence Lacey as Irene Malloy. Lee Roy Reams told me that Jerry Herman wanted Florence in the role after hearing her sing CAN'T HELP LOVIN' DAT MAN at a party at Rock Hudson's. She repeated the role in Carol's last revival.
October 19, 1995 - January 28, 1996, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre - Starring Carol Channing (116 performances)I saw it November 1st, 1995!
In London's West End, the show has been revived three times.
1979 - Starring Carol Channing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Shaftesbury Theatre
January 3, 1984 - April 27, 1984 - Starring female impersonator Danny La Rue as Dolly at the Prince of Wales Theatre with my friend Lorna Dallas as Irene Malloy. I've been fortunate enough to share the stage with Lorna. I did Lyrics and Lyricists at the 92nd Street Y along with Rex Reed and Karen Saunders at an incredible cast!And thanks to my dear friend, Sandra Holliday, I actually own some costume pieces from that production.
July 30, 2009 - September 12, 2009 - Starring Samantha Spiro (Dolly) and Allan Corduner at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.
Spiro won the Olivier Award for her performance. with Josefina Gabrielle as Irene Molloy.(Pictured below)
An actress who is often overlooked for her Dolly is another Carol, this time with an "e". Carole Cooke did the first Australian company of HELLO, DOLLY! The second actress (after Carol Channing) to star as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! I received the following today:
"Richard, A fabulous Actress, Jill Perryman was Carole's Irene Malloy in Australia...she was a popular Star there in the 60's and that was DOLLY'S second production in the World....Carole went on to do the show in New Zealand for 6 months , but Jill couldn't join the company...She was not able to continue the tour because she went on to star in the Australian production of FUNNY GIRL there...Carole sends all good wishes for your project...We thought Jill was not only a fabulous Actress but a truly wonderful lady. (C's mate, Tom Troupe)"
Hello, Dolly! premiered in the West End at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on December 2, 1965 and ran for 794 performances. Champion directed and choreographed, and the cast starred Mary Martin as Dolly and Loring Smith as Horace Vandergelder, with Johnny Beecher as Barnaby, Garrett Lewis as Cornelius, Mark Alden as Ambrose Kemper and Marilynn Lovell as Irene Molloy. Dora Bryan replaced Martin during the run.
When Tovah Feldshuh did Hello, Dolly! at The Papermill Playhouse in 2006 with Walter Charles (Horace Vandergelder), which I saw, Kate Baldwin played Irene Malloy.
Dorothy Lamour, Eve Arden, Michele Lee, Edie Adams and Yvonne De Carlo played the role on tour. Molly Picon appeared as Dolly in a 1971 production by the North Shore Music Theatre of Beverly, Massachusetts. Lainie Kazan starred in a production at the Claridge Atlantic City. Both Tovah Feldshuh and Betsy Palmer played Dolly in productions by the Paper Mill Playhouse. Marilyn Maye also starred in several regional productions and recorded a full album of the score. My friend, Janet Carroll was Irene Malloy in the production. I just spoke with Janet. She said she wished she had known about my blog yesterday. She also played Irene's mother in Musical Monday's production of Irene recently.
Janet was plucked from the chorus to play Irene at The Starlight Dinner Theatre in Kansas City. Marilyn went on to play Dolly in Galveston, Texas in the largest production of Dolly anywhere! She performed four summers in a row! 84-87!
I received the following from Janet, "My five seasons there were clearly my Musical Theatre education. Eight shows each season, Memorial Day thru Labor Day.
Marilyn Maye was our Dolly and she had also starred the previous year in "Can Can" so we had met and worked together before Hello Dolly. While we were rehearsing one day, Marilyn said to me "My god, how do you remember all those lines ?!" and I quickly responded, "My god, how do you remember all those lyrics ?! She laughed and said that they came naturally to her and if she didn't actually remember them she could just make up something that fit the timing. I realized I could do the same with dialogue. We've had a mutual admiration all these years. And gratefully, we're both still going strong ! BTW, I got a scathing review from the one and only "critic" in KC for the role ~ I was devastated at the time until I found out that this same critic had had a minor fling with Eileen Brennan when she came thru town in a touring company of Dolly a year or so before. My performance paled by comparison, no doubt.
You never really get over a poor, no, lousy review, do you? BUT you never let it get you down nor, god forbid stop you from doing and learning your craft. Subsequently, I've heard from that critic who congratulated me on my fine body of work. (Smile).
or "He who smiles last smiles... a lot" or something like that. xxoo"
Janet Carroll — Hollywood’s most working Film, Television, Recording, and Stage star whose acting repertoire spans myriad roles in TV and feature films, was classically and theatrically trained in every area of performance art in her hometown of Chicago. In 2004—2005 she starred on Broadway creating the role of Aunt March in the new Musical Little Women.
I LOVE JANET CARROLL!
I played Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! at The Revision Theatre several years ago.
It must be meant to be. I did get the chance to do it several years ago with The Revision Theatre in Asbury Park and "God willing, will happen again!
Go to RichardSkipper.com, Go to Testimonials, Click on Revision Theatre to read what Thomas Morrissey, our director had to say about my performance.
Kristy Cates was my Irene Malloy.
Years ago, Lonny Price directed Dorothy Louden in a production of The Matchmaker at The Roundabout. Unfortunately Mel Gussow panned that production in The New York Times. Lisa Emery played Irene Malloy in that production.
Edie Adams did an infamous production at The Bucks County Playhouse several years ago.
As usual, when I started this blog today, I had no idea where it would take me!
One thing is certain! I have the basis of a book here! There are many I have left out! May Irene Ryan and Irene Malloy live on forever!
Tune in tomorrow to read about some more famous Irenes!
Thank you for joining me on these nostalgic journeys! I've added a new aspect to my blog.. Every five days, I answer a question on video that YOU send to me. You can ask me ANYTHING and I will answer your question on video within my blog. Send your questions to
Next question will be answered Tuesday.
"Richard, for supporting the ARTS and calling attention to the STARS of yesterday. You are a STAR in your own right!! With admiration and friendship"
Thank you to all who have encouraged me! Thanks to all who have tried to stifle my art. I have learned from ALL of you!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE day for ALL!
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Tomorrow's blog will be GOODBYE, IRENE! PART TWO to today's blog
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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com