PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: JANUARY 20

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
and Christopher Reichheld and Anne Bradley
20 Jan 2014

1896 Say good morning, George. Actually it was "Nathan" then — Nathan Birnbaum born today. As George Burns, he and Gracie Allen will become headliners of vaudeville. Together they will appear in films and their own television show. On his own, Burns will also have a successful film career.



1914 John Barrymore stars in The Yellow Ticket at the Eltinge Theatre in New York. This drama written by Michael Morton and staged by Hugh Ford, will run 183 performances.

1926 Actress Patricia Neal is born today in Packard, Kentucky. Among other productions, she will appear in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest. For her performance in that show she will have the distinction of being the very first person to be handed a Tony Award at the inaugural ceremony.

1954 The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial is tried at the Plymouth Theatre. Herman Wouk adapted his novel which stars Lloyd Nolan, Henry Fonda, and John Hodiak. Charles Laughton directs.

1975 A gay bathhouse is the setting of Terrence McNally's high-energy farce, The Ritz, which stars Jack Weston as a bewildered straight man forced to hide out there, and Rita Moreno as spirited entertainer Googie Gomez. It runs 398 performances at the Longacre Theatre, and wins Moreno the Tony for Best Supporting Actress. She's the last person to win it, however: Her speech about supporting "nothing but my beads," leads the Tonys to change the name of the category to Best Featured Actress.

1989 British comedienne, Beatrice Lillie, dies today. Lillie first performed in New York in 1924 (Andre Charlot's Revue of 1924). Her film credits include 1967's "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

2002 Carrie Hamilton, daughter of Carol Burnett, with whom she co-authored Hollywood Arms, dies today at age 37. The show will go on to open on Broadway in the fall.

2003 Iconic Broadway caricaturist Al Hirschfeld dies at age 99. Having captured the spirit of New York life, particularly actors in performance, since the 1920s, he was known for hiding his daughter's name, "Nina," in his sketches. At least one Broadway show, My Fair Lady, used a Hirschfeld drawing as its logo. Within months of his death, the Martin Beck Theatre will be renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in his honor.

2004 Bernard Punsly, the last surviving member of the quintet of young Broadway and Hollywood actors known as "The Dead End Kids," for their first appearance in the Broadway drama Dead End, dies in Torrence, California, at age 80.

2005 Harvey Fierstein takes over the role of Tevye in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

2005 Also today, Dick Gallagher, 49, a trusted accompanist, musical director and Off-Broadway composer (for What Not, Whoop-Dee-Doo! and — his greatest hit — When Pigs Fly), dies in Manhattan after a long illness.

More of Today's Birthdays: Joseph Jefferson, III 1829. Ruth St. Denis 1878. Bretaigne Windust 1906.