By David Gewirtzman
and Anne Bradley and Christopher Reichheld
25 Dec 2012
1907 Birthday of Cab Calloway (1907-1994), bandleader who epitomized Harlem in the 1920s, and who occasionally appeared on Broadway. Appearances include Porgy and Bess in 1953, and Hello, Dolly! in 1967.
1917 Jesse Lynch Williams' comedy, Why Marry?, will be compared by the critics to the satire of George Bernard Shaw and will receive the first Pulitzer Prize for drama. A modern young woman asks the title question when she decides to take a mate. Lotus Robb, Beatrice Beckley, and Nat C. Goodwin star.
1918 World War I dogfighters inspire a craze for flying. The first musical to deal with flyers, Going Up, opens at the Liberty Theatre and runs 351 performances, with Ed Begley, Donald Meek and Marion Sunshine.
1928 Just weeks after the stock market crash, Broadway has its biggest night ever. Eight separate shows open on Christmas Day: Falstaff, Ruth Draper, Houseboat on the Styx, The Red Robe, Brothers and Back Seat Drivers.
1940 Opening night for Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's hard-bitten musical, Pal Joey, starring Vivienne Segal and, in the title role, Gene Kelly, in his first (and last) Broadway lead. He'll soon be snapped up by Hollywood. Pal Joey stays only 374 performances, but gets a longer run in a 1950s revival.
1977 Actor, director, producer, screenwriter and composer Charlie Chaplin dies today in Switzerland at age 88. Following his father's death and mother's complete emotional breakdown, Charlie joined a group of child dancers, the Eight Lancashire Lads. At age eight he appeared in the premiere performance of Peter Pan in 1904. It was with the Fred Karno company's tour of the U.S. that he caught the eye of Mack Sennett. The rest is film history. In 2012, Christopher Curtis and Thomas Meehan use Charlie Chaplin's life as the subject for the Broadway musical Chaplin.
1999 Tony n' Tina's Wedding gives its 4,000th performance Off Broadway. The interactive comedy includes an Italian-American wedding and a sit down reception with a meal.
2008 Singer and actress Eartha Kitt, whose exotic, sex-kitten persona and sultry, purring vocal delivery was unlike anything that had come before her, dies of colon cancer at age 81. Kitt was a best-selling recording artist, a Tony-nominated stage actress (for Timbuktu! and The Wild Party), a sex symbol, a paragon of both high art and high camp, and the author of three autobiographies.