Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 31

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: January 31
Happy birthday, Tallulah Bankhead!
Tallulah Bankhead in <i>Private Lives</i>
Tallulah Bankhead in Private Lives Friedman-Abeles/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

1902 Actor Tallulah Bankhead, who goes on to star in the premieres of The Little Foxes and The Skin of Our Teeth (in addition to Alfred Hitchcock's classic Lifeboat) but is ultimately best-known for her flamboyant personal life, husky voice, and endless bon mots, is born. Valerie Harper earned a Tony Award nomination portraying Bankhead in the 2010 play Looped.

1905 The Woman in the Case is played by Blanche Walsh. She comes to the aid of her husband who is falsely accused of murder. Clyde Fitch's drama runs for 89 performances.

1921 Carol Channing is born in Seattle, Washington. The saucer-eyed actor achieves stardom as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but her greatest role is the original Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly!.

1922 The Czarina is Catherine the Great. Her story is told through the eyes of her lover Count Czerny. Doris Keane and Basil Rathbone star. This comedy runs at the Empire Theatre in New York for 136 performances.

1933 English dramatist-novelist John Galsworthy dies in Hampstead, England at age 66. His first play The Silver Box was produced in 1906.

1980 Irene Worth is a mysterious woman calling herself The Lady from Dubuque in Edward Albee's drama, opening on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre. The play closes after only 12 performances, but is later more successfully revived in productions starring Maggie Smith (West End, 2007) and Jane Alexander (Off-Broadway, 2012).

1985 The story of 19th-century acting team Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart gets the musical treatment in Harrigan 'n Hart. It gets acclaim as the first musical developed at Goodspeed Opera House's Norma Terris Theatre, but lasts only 4 performances after its transfer to Broadway. Harry Groener stars with Mark Hammill.

2009 Boston's Shear Madness turns 30 years old. It is the longest-running non-musical play in the history of American theatre. The play is a comedy in which a murder occurs in the Shear Madness Hair Styling Salon and it is up to the audience to vote on who is guilty of the crime.

More of Today's Birthdays: Jerry J. Cohan 1848. Fritz Leiber 1882. Eddie Cantor 1892. Mario Lanza 1921. Richard Clarke 1933. Philip Glass 1937. Suzanne Pleshette 1937. Paul Jabara 1948. Anthony LaPaglia 1959. Danielle Ferland 1971.

Flip through photos from Carol Channing's Broadway appearances:

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