Donald Bevan, Sardi's Caricaturist, Dies at 93
By Robert Simonson
Donald Bevan, who created caricatures of theatre greats for the walls of Sardi's Restaurant, died May 29 at his home in Studio City, CA. He was 93.
Mr. Bevan was one of only four men who had been charged with creating Sardi's caricatures, which line the walls of all three floors of the famed Times Square chow house, and are considered one of the ultimate honors that can be bestowed upon a theatre personality. Alex Gard, who executed the drawings in exchange for free lunches, was the first. After he died in 1948, John Mackey took over, but was soon replaced by Mr. Bevan.
Donald Bevan retired from his Sardi's duties in 1974. Since then, the portraits have been the work of Richard Baratz.
Mr. Bevan entered the theatre world as a playwright, co-authoring, with Edmund Trzcinski, the hit WWII drama Stalag 17. The play bowed in May 1951 and ran for more than a year. Brooks Atkinson, writing in the New York Times, called it "a stinging melodrama about something of crucial importance to the characters caught in it."
Jose Ferrer won a Tony Award as Best Director. The play was subsequently made into a 1953 Oscar-winning film directed by Billy Wilder and starring William Holden. The play also inspired the Nazi war camp-set sitcom "Hogan's Heroes."
In writing the play, Mr. Bevan and Trzscinski drew on their own experience as prisoners of war. Shot down over Bremen, Germany, Mr. Bevan spend two years at Stalag 17B, near Krems, Austria. To pass the time, he and Trzcinski built a theatre, for which they wrote and staged revue sketches.
Donald Bevan was born Jan. 16, 1920, in Holyoke, MA. After high school, he studied at the Grand Central School of Art in Manhattan. Soon after, he was drafted.
He was introduced to Vincent Sardi, Jr., by playwright Jack Kirkland (Tobacco Road), the father of his wife, actress Patricia Kirkland. His initial efforts as a Sardi's caricaturist were not successful. Maureen Stapleton disliked hers so much that she stole it. He eventually got the hang of it, though, penning hundreds of portraits, including images of Karl Malden, Lauren Bacall, Jackie Gleason, Carol Burnett and Laurence Olivier. His drawings were true caricatures, with exaggerated features and not necessarily flattering.
Ms. Kirkland died in 2000. Mr. Bevan's two sons, Michael and Scott, pre-deceased him as well. He is survived by a third son, Mark, and a daughter, Nan.
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