ON THE AISLE by Harry Haun: Fairbanks Parries

News   ON THE AISLE by Harry Haun: Fairbanks Parries


You don't fence with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The old Son of Sinbad , 88, can still cut you down to size. He recently first-nighted the stage bio of an old movie crony, [John] Barrymore --a grand reincarnation by Christopher Plummer at the Music Box--where the character's asked "What were you last in?" Like a shot, The Great Profile replies, "I believe it was Joan Crawford."

William Luce , author of the play and the line, sweated bullets over this because The Gods had seated him right behind Fairbanks (i.e., Crawford's first husband); happily, the gag was greeted with a good guffaw, but at the premiere party at "21," a gossip cub from one of the tabs put an ugly spin on that reference and asked Fairbanks frontally, "Do you have any reaction to this allegation of infidelity?" Pause, parry, thrust: "Aren't you embarrassed to ask a question like that?" countered the actor, sending the cub yelping in retreat. Score one for the old school!

Fairbanks, true to his movie-royalty lineage, remains Grace Personified. He even got Plummer's autograph like one of us mortals.

* Theatre World Award giver John Willis , ever on the lookout for New Faces, should check out Michael Mastro , who plays Barrymore 's prompter and presents a fully realized character without setting foot on stage till the curtain call--the best trick since Claude Rains did The Invisible Man . It would be Mastro's Broadway bow, had he not already spent one day there doing matinee and evening performances of Love! Valour! Compassion! for laryngitis-stricken Mario Cantone . "I'll never forget that day," says Mastro, "July 19, 1995."

* A more conspicuous candidate for a New Faces nod--maybe the youngest ever to rate it--is 8-year-old Brittny Kissinger , the 20th anniversary Annie .

* Beyond the big body-count it took to bring Les Miz back to vibrant life at the Imperial, there was real blood at the barricades on reopening night: Robert Marien , Broadway's newest Jean Valjean (and the Paris original), arrived at Sardi's after the 10th anniversary performance with a Band-Aid on his forehead, newly gashed by a lighting fixture during the French Revolution. (No foul play was suspected.)

-- By Harry Haun

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