PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: JANUARY 19

1887 Birthday of Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943), actor, author, radio personality, theatre critic of The New York Times, and one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table is born today. He will appear as an actor in several Broadway shows, and serve as the model for the character of Sheridan Whiteside in George S. Kaufman's comedy, The Man Who Came to Dinner.

1909 What is The Easiest Way? Eugene Walter's play explores the lengths women of the time went to in order to support themselves. This controversial drama was produced and directed by David Belasco.

1917 Birthday of sturdy leading man John Raitt, star of Broadway's original Carousel and The Pajama Game, and father of pop singer Bonnie Raitt.

1932 Ernest Truex and Claire Trevor are Whistling in the Dark at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. This melodramatic farce by Laurence Gross and Edward Childs Carpenter deals with a novelist being held captive by bandits who want him to work out the perfect murder plot.

1942 Birthday of British musical theatre star Michael Crawford, who will star on Broadway in two gothic musicals, the blockbuster The Phantom of the Opera and the flop Dance of the Vampires.

1956 Tyrone Guthrie directs Anthony Quayle in Christopher Marlowe's 16th century epic Tamburlaine the Great at the Winter Garden Theatre. It runs only 20 performances, but gives one thing to posterity: it's the Broadway debut of William Shatner, later Captain Kirk on TV's "Star Trek." 1965 London's Old Vic Theatre houses Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Produced by the National Theatre and directed by Laurence Olivier, the cast is led by Joyce Redman and Colin Blakely.

1978 James Earl Jones portrays Paul Robeson at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre. This drama by Philip Dean will play 45 performances before moving to the Booth Theatre. Here it will run in repertory with Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

1984 Ian McKellen opens tonight at the Ritz Theater in Ian McKellen: Acting Shakespeare. He receives a 1984 Tony Award nomination for his performance.

2006 Anthony Franciosa, the volatile Method actor who came to fame through his Tony-nominated work in A Hatful of Rain, and was once married to Shelley Winters, dies at age 77 following a stroke.

More of Today's Birthdays: Minnie Dupree 1873. Albertina Rasch 1896. Jean Stapleton 1923. Fritz Weaver 1926. Dolly Parton 1946. Veanne Cox 1963. Scott Schwartz 1974.