Category Archives: Theatre Guild Productions

Theatre History

Hello Friends!

We are very pleased today because Cindy Adams, Page Six writer for the New York Post, was writing an article about Theatre History in the wake of last night’s Tony Awards .

Lo and behold! The Theatre Guild got a nod from Ms. Adams:

1918. Formation of the Theatre Guild. Also, Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” That’s 99 years before the Golden’s current occupants grabbed all those nominations for “Part 2.”

Click here for the full article.

99 years!  It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a century—and we are very excited about our 100th Anniversary, as there may well be a new commemorative postage stamp similar to the one to mark the 50th Anniversary of our musical Oklahoma!.

ok stamp
Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn Langner

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Memories On The Small Screen

Dear Friends,

Last Saturday a film we produced played on NBC.  It was Judgement at Nuremberg, starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, and Werner Klemperer.

Judgement at Nuremberg

We enjoyed it so much—it was so filled with the author, Abby Mann’s screenplay.  And, despite being thought of as too “intellectual and thoughtful,” it was one of our greatest successes! We just love the story about how the film came together and decided to re-share our story with you today (we originally posted the story below November 2014).

KATHARINE HEPBURN’S UNKNOWN TRIUMPH! 

In 1960, a teleplay was performed on Playhouse 90. The program was called Judgment at Nuremburg, which was a somber and serious piece.
Philip Langner of The Theatre Guild, Inc. received a script “over the transom”—as they say about unknown scripts. The Guild directors liked the script and “knowing” its virtual impossibility as a film, decided—with the author’s agreement—to have a play written and to produce it on Broadway.

At the time, Katharine Hepburn was playing Antony & Cleopatra at the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, CT (created by Lawrence Langner). On a very remote possibility, Philip and the author, Abby Mann, drove to Stratford on a matinee day to see Kate.  After the matinee, they went to her cottage.  She opened the door and Philip said politely “Kate, you have a lovely suntan!”  Kate said with her typical Locust Valley lockjaw accent—“That’s not a suntan, those are spots!” Looking back, Philip always wondered if he should have replied, “well, they do look wonderful on you!”

Kate agreed to look at the t.v. production, which she did at The Theatre Guild building on 53rd Street. She liked the teleplay enormously and decided to work diligently to make it into a film.

She sent the play to Spencer Tracy and she succeeded! Tracy sent it to Hollywood producer, Stanley Kramer, who produced it in 1961 with the most incredible cast for such a serious—and therefore risky—film.  Kramer persuaded all 9 film stars to take modest salaries.  The film was released in 1961.

Kramer was the Producer, Philip Langner the Associate Producer, and Abby Mann was the Screenwriter. The incredible cast included:

  • Spencer Tracy
  • Richard Widmark
  • Burt Lancaster
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Max Schell
  • Montgomery Clift
  • Judy Garland
  • William Shatner
  • Warner Klemperer

Thus, one of the Great War films of all time was created.

And who got it done? Katharine Hepburn.

AND WHO WAS NEVER TOLD ABOUT HER TRIUMPH? The World. 

Judgment at Nuremburg was nominated for 11 Academy awards, winning 2 for Best Actor (Schell) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Mann). The film was recently entered into the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Best regards,
Philip and Marilyn

PS—The discussion in this film on the subject of war is so important, and of course, it is wildly pertinent in today’s world with North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Yemen all hoping(?) for some war excitement.

And also: we bought a DVD of Judgement at Nuremberg at Amazon, which is currently for on sale for $12.00.  To order your copy, click here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jezebel on Tour

Dear Friends,

We are writing you today about our play, Me & Jezebel—which we have been touring for two years—starring Loretta Swit.

Me & Jezebel, an off-Broadway hit, is a hysterical real-life comedy written by Elizabeth Fuller about a time when Bette Davis came to Westport, CT for a two-day visit and stayed for well over a month!

“The Bette-Davis-in-her-70s look is just right: the too-perfect pageboy, the oversize glasses, the Chanel (or at least Chanel-like) suit and is great fun to watch in Elizabeth’s Fuller’s “Me and Jezebel,” adapted from her memoir”—New York Times

We are happy to report that Loretta has a few dates open in 2017 so if any theatre owners/managers reading this newsletter are interested in booking this wonderful comedy in your theatre, please call us!

212/873-0676

jezebel

Tagged , , , , , , ,

More Farewells.

Dear Friends,

In response to our post about our dear Tammy Grimes, a lovely Theatre Guild subscriber, Ruth—who accompanied us on many of our wonderful Theatre At Sea cruises—wrote about her recollections of Tammy.

We wanted to share these with you because they are so special, and a testament to how much Tammy will be missed.  Thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to share!

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

Dear Friends,

Appreciate your post on Tammy Grimes.   I was one of the many shipmates privileged to sail with Tammy Grimes during your many Theatre at Sea sailings.  What lovely days we all enjoyed in her company.   She was indeed all that you say and more.  I was not a celebrity and yet she always greeted me by name with warmth and charm.  Needless to say, I was very flattered and touched by her warmth.

On a personal note, some years ago, we shared the same hairdressing salon which we frequented on the same day.  On one occasion during one of our chats, she spoke of Private Lives and mentioned that she wished she had the playbill.  I told her that I would bring mine, since we were savers.   When we met again, I handed her the playbill.  She was overcome with surprise that I remembered and truly pleased to own it.   I was thrilled to be able to fulfill this request.  Her graciousness and sincerity could not be measured.   As everyone knows, she was not only a lovely lady, but also a great actress.

Sadly, we did not meet again and I soon realized that her health had become a major issue.

Theatre at Sea sailings were indeed special times for everyone.

Sincerely

Ruth

Tagged , , , ,

Goodbye Tammy

Dear Friends,

Today we celebrate the life of a beautiful and wonderful friend, actress Tammy Grimes, who died on Sunday.

We first knew Tammy when she was an apprentice at our Westport Country Playhouse in 1949.  She was always outstanding, funny, and brilliant!

She starred in our musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, on Broadway—for which she won a Tony.

tammy-grimes-1

Here is a brief look at the projects that Tammy worked on over the years:

Filmography

Three Bites of the Apple (1966), Arthur? Arthur! (1969), Play It as It Lays (1972), The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973), The Borrowers (1973), Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978), The Runner Stumbles (1979), Can’t Stop the Music (1980), The Last Unicorn (1982), The Stuff (1985), America (1986), Mr. North (1988), Slaves of New York (1989), Backstreet Justice (1994), A Modern Affair (1995), Trouble on the Corner (1997), High Art (1998)

Stage

The Littlest Revue (1959), The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960), Rattle of a Simple Man (1963), High Spirits (1964), The Only Game in Town (1968), Private Lives (revival) (1969), A Musical Jubilee (1975), California Suite (1976), Tartuffe (revival)(1977), Trick (1979), 42nd Street (1980), Sunset (1983), Orpheus Descending (revival) (1989), Wit & Wisdom (2003)

Here is the article in today’s New York Times:

Tammy Grimes, the Original ‘Unsinkable Molly Brown,’ Dies at 82

fullsizerender

Click on the title or the picture above to link to the full article.

We knew her so well—she was so charming and fun, and we will miss her so much.

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Playwrights

With the end of summer looming and a new school year and theatre season on the horizon, we thought we’d take a bit of a break and head down the coast to spend a bit of time with our daughter and granddaughters.

We started this Newsletter just over a few years ago and we have been very fortunate in our ever-increasing number of subscribers. But we also realize that many of you haven’t had time to go back and read all of our articles, and so we thought we’d share a few with you while we’re lounging away on the beach, watching our granddaughters play!

In this post, we revisit some of the great and phenomenal playwrights The Theatre Guild has worked with over the years…enjoy!

The Theatre Guild Newsletter

One of the fascinating aspects of The Theatre Guild is all of the wonderful playwrights we have worked with in our 95 years, such as:

George Bernard Shaw—possibly the greatest playwright of the century—had 14 plays produced by The Theatre Guild.

george bernard shaw

The Theatre Guild produced 9 of Eugene O’Neill’s plays.

Eugene O'Neill

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine starred in 25 plays on Broadway for The Guild over a 30 year period from 1925 to 1956.

Lunt and Fontanne 2

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote Oklahoma! at the suggestion of The Theatre Guild and collaborated with The Theatre Guild to create Carousel and Allegro.

rodgers and hammerstein

Of course, we can never forget Dore Schary—who wrote Sunrise At Campobello, which we produced and then later adapted to our current running play FDR, starring Ed Asner, which will be performing in Laguna Beach, CA in November, and Chicago in April 2015.

dore schary

These playwrights were so talented…

View original post 22 more words

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Celestials of Broadway

Dear Friends,

We are writing to you today to urge you to go see Lunt and Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway.

Lunt and Fontanne 2

It is playing at The New York International Fringe Festival 64E4 Mainstage: Venue #11 (64 East 4th Street, between 2nd Avenue & Bowery) for four more performances this month: Wednesday 8/17 at 7pm, Saturday 8/20 at 7pm, Tuesday 8/23 at 2:15pm, and Saturday 8/27 at 4:45pm.

In LUNT AND FONTANNE: THE CELESTIALS OF BROADWAY, Mark E. Lang’s new stage play about the Lunts, today’s audiences get a chance to meet Alfred and Lynn, explore their life on and off the stage, see them perform scenes from their favorite plays– including Shakespeare’s TAMING OF THE SHREW and Molnar’s THE GUARDSMAN; interact with famous friends such as Noel Coward and Laurence Olivier; and share their experiences on Broadway, in London during World War II and on tour.

Alfred and Lynn were very dear to us here at The Guild—they performed in our productions from 1920-1960, with 25 consecutive seasons from 1929-1949!  We are excited that real-life married couple Mark E. Lang and Alison Murphy are portraying these beloved theatre stars and throwing them back into the limelight where they belong.

Click here to purchase tickets or learn more about the play.

lunt and fontanne flyer

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

lunt stamp

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Sunrise at Campobello

Dear Friends,

Since we’ve been celebrating American history all week, we thought we’d share this post with you again, as it is where history and theatre intersect!

Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn

The Theatre Guild Newsletter

Certainly one of the most exciting plays we ever produced was Sunrise at Campobello, the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the early 1920s.

We were extremely happy when Dore Schary, a prominent head of MGM, decided to leave Hollywood to concentrate on writing and producing plays in New York!

campo 2

His first play, Sunrise, was excellent!  We opened the play on what would have been Roosevelt’s 76th birthday—January 30, 1958.  It was directed by Vincent J. Donehue and starred Ralph Bellamy as Roosevelt, along with Mary Fickett, Henry Jones, Anne Seymour, Mary Welch, Alan Bunce and more!

The play ran for 16 months with 556 spectacular performances.  It was nominated for 6 Tonys in 1958 and won Best Play, Best Actor, Best Director…

  • Best Play (winner)
  • Outstanding Actor in a Play—Ralph Bellamy (winner)
  • Direction—Vincent J. Donehue (winner)
  • Featured Actor in a Play—Henry Jones (winner)
  • Featured Actress in…

View original post 95 more words

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Green Grow The Lilacs

Dear Friends,

As we have been reminiscing during this holiday season about our childhood and things that we loved, we remembered a favorite song–Green Grow the Lilacs.

Green grow the lilacs, all sparkling with dew

I’m lonely my darling since parting with you

And by the next meeting, I hope to prove true

To exchange the green lilacs for the red, white, and blue!

It was an Irish folk song that was made popular in the United States during the 19th century. Mexican soldiers during the Mexican-American War misheard the American soldiers singing “Green Grow” and started calling our soldiers “gringos!”

Later on, it was turned into a play of the same name by Lynn Riggs. The Theatre Guild produced it on Broadway in 1931, starring Franchot Tone, June Walker, and Tex Ritter. The Theatre Guild then decided to make it into a musical, and engaged Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to write it. Oklahoma! opened on Broadway in 1943 and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances! Out of the 128 plays The Guild produced on Broadway, it became its greatest hit!

But of course, Green Grow the Lilacs started it all and we were able to find a wonderful YouTube video of the song sung by Tex Ritter (ahhh, the marvels of the internet!).

Enjoy and Happy New Year!
Philip & Marilyn

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Independence of Slaves

Dear Friends,

As we were discussing the impact that John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands had on the independent film industry in our last post, we would like to share our own experiences in the film industry.   The Theatre Guild has produced 5 films over the years:

  • The Pawnbroker
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • Born To Win
  • Slaves
  • A Child Is Waiting

Additionally, our dear partner Marilyn Clark Langner had roles in several of Cassavetes’ films—Shadows and Husbands—and even one of our own independent productions, Slaves, which we produced in 1969, starring Dionne Warwick (in her debut role), Ossie Davis, and Stephen Boyd.  It told the story of two slaves in South Carolina.

marilyn slaves

Marilyn Clark Langner riding in Shreveport, Louisiana on the set of Slaves. You may note that she is riding side-saddle, as ladies did back then.  Marilyn spent months going to Westchester, where she took side-saddle riding lessons.

It was definitely a family affair, as our two small daughters were also in the film.

HOW WE MADE OUR INDEPENDENT FILM SLAVES:

It was 1969, and we were encouraged and emboldened by John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands independent movie adventures.  We read this wonderful movie script by Herbert Biberman, John O. Killens, and Alida Sherman; it was about life for slaves before the Civil War.  We knew that no studio would want to make such an informative and serious film about this subject matter.  But we felt compelled to make it, so we went around asking for support ($750,000) from our kind supporters and received a $500,000 investment a film distribution company in New York.

On a winter day in 1969 we bought a limousine from upstate New York and brought it down to New York City.  Several weeks later, we hired our production workers (3 or 4) and they drove the limo to Shreveport, LA.  There we had contracted a lovely gentleman who owned a 1860s style plantation and farm, who permitted us to shoot the film on his land.

We had hired Dionne Warwick, who played Cassy (the leading actress), in her debut role and Ossie Davis played Luke, the male lead.  We engaged Stephen Boyd to play the slave owner and our dear Marilyn played his wife.  Herbert Biberman was the director.

We all met in Shreveport, LA and there we had a rehearsal hall to prepare the actors for their roles in the film.  All of this was very exciting.  We had a number of casting calls for local women to play in the film.  We were very worried that the residents of Shreveport would be, perhaps, angry and unwilling to participate in a movie showing the life of slaves.  Happily, everyone wanted to be in the movie–we think that was more important than its political view–so we had a full cast of our film and stage actors supplemented by Shreveport residents.

We shot the film in 8 weeks and sent the films we shot to Hollywood to be developed, printed, and edited.  Our director, of course, supervised the editing.  We found an independent distributor, which was not easy because the major film companies were not available for this project.  The film was released in 1972.  It won awards in Europe.  Marilyn and I traveled to the Paris and Berlin film festivals.

We are very proud of this movie and are working hard to have it re-released soon—and we owe our thanks and gratitude to Gena and John for helping pave the way!

We think this is exciting: our film Slaves is available to be watched on either Amazon Prime or Netflix (just click on the orange link)!

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,