Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: February 10

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
and Anne Bradley and Ernio Hernandez
10 Feb 2016

1893 Birthday of Jimmy "Schnozzola" Durante (1893-1980), big-nosed comedian who would star on Broadway in Show Girl, The New Yorkers and Strike Me Pink. Catchphrases included "I got a million of 'em! [Jokes.]" "Everybody wants to get into the act!" "Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, whereever you are," and, when comically caught stealing a pachyderm in Jumbo memorably stood in front of it and asked his pursuers, "What elephant?"

1898 Birthday of ferociously left-wing playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) in Germany. An early convert to the cause of socialism, he wrote scathing attacks on capitalist society, including musicals Threepenny Opera and Happy End, both with composer Kurt Weill. After World War II, he settled and worked in communist East Germany. Other plays include The Good Woman of Setzuan and Mother Courage and Her Children.

1914 Composer Sigmund Romberg makes his Broadway debut with The Whirl of the World. The hit musical will run 161 performances, and starts Romberg on a 40-year career that will include Maytime, Blossom Time, The Desert Song and The New Moon.

1949 Willy Loman knows his territory and wants to make a sale. His big pitch happens tonight with Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, starring Lee J. Cobb. Fifty years to the day later, Robert Falls directs a 1999 revival starring Brian Dennehy, Elizabeth Franz and Kevin Anderson at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

1955 Paul Newman, Karl Malden, and Nancy Coleman fill The Desperate Hours. Joseph Hayes' thriller about a family held hostage by escaped convicts will run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre for 212 performances.

1960 Bud Freeman and Leon Pober couldn't Beg, Borrow or Steal a hit with their urban musical, which ran just five performances at the Martin Beck. Estelle Parsons, Eddie Bracken, Betty Garrett, Larry Parks and Biff McGuire all had feature roles.

1965 There will be just five performances of Diamond Orchid at the Henry Miller Theatre. Playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee seem to draw heavily from the life of Eva Peron. Jose Quintero stages.

1965 Also today, Albarwild Theatre Arts, a new producing team consisting of Edward Albee, Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder, open their first New Playwrights Series at the Cherry Lane Theatre. The opening bill showcases three budding playwrights, Lanford Wilson, Sam Shepard and Paul Foster, two of whom would go on to win Pulitzer Prizes and change the course of 20th century theatre. In the next few years, Albarwild would provide a commercial creative engine for the Off-Off-Broadway movement.

1966 Broadway impressario Billy Rose dies today. The dynamo behind such spectacles as Jumbo, and the 1939 World's Fair Aquacade was also the owner of the Ziegfeld Theatre. He was 66 years old.

1998 The 100th anniversary of Bertolt Brecht's birth is celebrated at California's Brecht Centennial. Play readings, performances, cabarets and seminars honored the father of Epic Theatre, whose works included Caucasian Chalk Circle, Mother Courage and Her Children and The Good Person of Setzuan.

1999 A revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman opens at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre starring Brian Dennehy exactly 50 years after the original Broadway debut of the play, starring Lee J. Cobb, at the Morosco Theatre.

2005 Arthur Miller, 89, the morally-sensitive author of the landmark drama Death of Salesman—as well as The Crucible, A View From the Bridge, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, The Price and All My Sons—and widely regarded as America's greatest living playwright, dies of cancer, pneumonia and a heart condition at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. His last Broadway production had been a 2004 revival of After the Fall, a parable about his failed marriage to actress Marilyn Monroe.

2008 The original cast recording of Spring Awakening wins the Grammy Award as Best Musical Show Album.

More of Today's Birthdays: Bert Kalmar 1884. Alan Hale 1892. Judith Anderson 1897. Stella Adler 1901. Erik Rhodes 1906. Joyce Grenfell 1910. Louis Botto 1924. Leontyne Price 1927. Peter Allen 1944.