1915 A King is born today... in the form of Yul Brynner. Brynner will, of course, go on to star as one half of the title of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King And I, opposite Gertrude Lawrence. Brynner will go on to play the role in numerous incarnations of the production, as well as in the film version (for which he won the Academy Award), and a short-lived, non-musical 1970's sitcom called Anna and the King.
1937 Composer George Gershwin, half of the songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, dies today of a brain tumor at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles. Along with his lyricist brother, Gershwin wrote the musical masterpiece Porgy and Bess, as well as such Broadway and pop standards as "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." Also the composer of the popular concert piece "Rhapsody in Blue," Gershwin was only 38 years old at the time of his death.
1985 Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings, a comedy about a family's reunion for a traditional English Christmas, opens at the Joyce Theatre. The American Theatre Exchange production was helmed by Pat Brown. The play ran previously in London and then made its American premiere at Houston's Alley Theatre in Texas before making its way to Off Broadway.
1989 Sir Laurence Olivier dies today. The celebrated actor of stage and film was 82 years old. Olivier appeared on Broadway and in the West End in a large array of roles, ranging from Shakespearean tragic heros Hamlet and Caesar to lighter fare like No Time For Comedy. As a stage director, Olivier staged the London bow of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring his wife, Vivien Leigh. Film credits include his Academy Award-winning version of Hamlet, which Olivier also directed, and Clash of the Titans.
1998 After playing 12 previews and 240 regular performances in William Luce's Broadway bio of John Barrymore at the Music Box Theatre, actor Christopher Plummer will kick off an eight-city tour of Barrymore tonight. The Broadway production closed Nov. 2, 1997, but Plummer took some time off to rest from the role which won him the 1997 Best Actor Tony Award, as well as a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award.
2012 Heads turn at the Geffen Playhouse as John Pielmeier's adaptation of William Peter Blatty's horror novel The Exorcist opens in Los Angeles. John Doyle stages the production, which stars Brooke Shields as the mother of a girl possessed by the devil, and Richard Chamberlain as the priest called in to perform the exorcism.