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Elaine Stritch Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (36) | Personal Quotes (5)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 2 February 1925Detroit, Michigan, USA
Date of Death 17 July 2014Birmingham, Michigan, USA  (stomach cancer)
Height 5' 7¼" (1.71 m)

Mini Bio (1)

A brash, incorrigible scene-stealer now entering her sixth decade in a career that has had many highs and lows, veteran Elaine Stritch certainly lives up to the Stephen Sondheim song "I'm Still Here". Having stolen so many moments on stage that she could be convicted of grand larceny, this tough old broad broaching 80 with the still-shapely legs, puffy blonde hairdo and deep, whiskey voice isn't quitting anytime soon - or so it seems. Born in Detroit in 1925 and educated at a finishing school, she prepared for the stage at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School and made her debut in 1944. She made it to Broadway two years later and has since become the toast of both Broadway and London's West End, collecting a number of trophies on both continents over the years for such award-winning turns as "Bus Stop", "Sail Away", "A Delicate Balance", "Show Boat" and "Company". Through sheer personality alone, her cacophonous singing voice has miraculously taken classic songs from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart to Noël Coward and Stephen Sondheim and put her indelible stamp on them. She was a supporting player in several films, including A Farewell to Arms (1957) with Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones, and dabbled on comedy TV, with the series My Sister Eileen (1960), but never made a strong name for herself in either of those mediums. In the early 1970's she married English actor John Bay and moved to London. She scored first on stage, then on TV with Donald Sinden in Two's Company (1975). Returning to America alone, she offered sly, abrasive cameos in both sitcoms and dramatic features. At age 76 Elaine is still throwing out zingers on stage and recently copped the Tony, Drama Desk, Obie, Outer Circle Critics and New York Drama Critics awards for her candid one-woman musical memoir Elaine Stritch at Liberty (2002). The show chronicles her notorious private life, which included a long bout with the bottle (to curb her stage fright) and a destructive relationship with fellow alcoholic Gig Young. Add to that a fair share of Hollywood gossip all cleverly packaged up with a still razor-sharp wit and show-stopping patter songs and you have what Elaine Stritch is all about. Truly one of a kind.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

John Bay (27 February 1973 - 7 November 1982) (his death)

Trade Mark (4)

Brash crusty persona
Hoarse gravelly voice
Discordant singing voice
Her shapely legs

Trivia (36)

Created the role of Joanne in the Broadway musical, "Company", the show in which she made famous the song "Ladies Who Lunch".
Once was the legendary actress Alla Nazimova's understudy.
Niece of the late Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago from 1940 to 1958.
She died at her home in Birmingham, MI.
Wins Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event and Drama Desk Award for best solo performance for her one-woman memoir Broadway show "Elaine Stritch at Liberty". Show also won Drama Desk award for best book of a musical (May/June 2002).
Once nearly married late actor Gig Young. After their broken engagement he married pre-Bewitched (1964) star Elizabeth Montgomery.
Made a "Living Landmark" of New York City in 2003 for her contributions to Broadway.
She was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for her performance as Best Actress in a Musical or Entertainment in "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" at The Old Vic Theatre of 2002.
Studied theatre at the Drama Workshop of the New School in Manhattan.
Lived with Ben Gazzara for two years.
Won Broadway's 2002 Special Theatrical Event Tony Award for her one-woman show, "Elaine Stritch at Liberty", recreated for television and on video as Elaine Stritch at Liberty (2002). She had four previous Tony nominations: as Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Dramatic) in 1956, for William Inge's "Bus Stop;" as Best Actress (Musical) in 1962, for "Sail Away," and in 1971, for "Company;" and as Best Actress (Play), in 1996 for a revival of Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance".
Was a diabetic.
Close friends with Noël Coward. He later wrote the role of Mimi Paragon in the musical "Sail Away" for her.
Spoofed by Forbidden Broadway (an ongoing collection of parodies of Broadway shows and performers) in the song "Stritch", itself a humorous send-up of the song "Zip" from the musical "Pal Joey".
Inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1995.
Performed her cabaret act at the Carlysle in New York City through the fall. [September 2006]
Parents were George Joseph (1892-1987) and Mildred Stritch (1893-1987).
Cousin of the late character actor Ed Lauter.
Struggled with alcoholism throughout her adult life. Stritch quit drinking in 1987 following a severe diabetic attack and remained sober for 24 years. Into her mid 80s, Stritch began to allow herself a single drink a day which lead to further health problems including a series of strokes, as documented in Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013). The actress sobered up again, and remained alcohol free for the rest of her life.
The Broadway musical "The Grass Harp", based upon the Truman Capote novella, composed by Claibe Richardson, book and lyrics by Kenward Elmslie, had the first staging in 1967. Elaine Stritch did "Baby Love" in Providence for a month's run, and is considered by many the best to take the role.
Elaine Stritch appeared on the Broadway stage in productions of "Goldilocks", "Sail-A-Way", "Company" and the Lincoln Center Philharmonic concert version of "Company". In "Sail-A-Way", she had a minor role, but in the out-of-town previews, Joe Layton talked Noel Coward into dropping the lead singer, combining Elaine's minor part with the leading role, turning it into Stritch's vehicle.
In "Elaine Stritch: At Liberty", Stritch tells of meeting Marlon Brando upon her arrival in New York City, where Elaine did "summer-stock" with Brando. After a performance, Brando took her to dinner, several clubs, ending up at a strip club where she was so bewildered that she broke into tears. He then suggested going to his walk-up in the village. Brando disappeared upon their arrival by going to his bedroom to change. Marlon soon reappeared wearing his pajamas. Complaining that it was so late, Elaine asked, "How I going to get home?". Brando simply answered: "I don't know!". Elaine said that after that evening, Brando would never talk to or recognize her anywhere he saw her. Years later, Brando called her up to invite her to dinner. When she met him for dinner, Brando did not say a word to her. They went into the restaurant where Brando ordered two Manhattan cocktails. When they arrived, Brando crushed his own glass in his hand, badly injuring it. His only words to Stritch during the dinner were, "Elaine... I'm sorry.".
Bernadette Peters, who shared the stage with Stritch in "A Little Night Music" (Stritch's last Broadway role) revealed some little known facts about the woman she called "my girlfriend." Stritch's favorite stripper name was Tequila Mockingbird, and when anyone died Elaine would say "they left the building." Stretch, who left the building in July 2014 at 89, did so "on her own terms," Peters confided. As her memory problem worsened, she apparently refused food and drink, stage-managing an ending more in keeping with how she wanted to go out.
Gossip columnist Liz Smith remarked her old pal Stritch left her some money with the request that she take Barbara Walters to dinner.
After seeing Nathane Lane in "The Addams Family" Elaine Stritch said with her usual take-no-prisoners candor, "Whatever they're paying you, it's not enough." - Adding "If it's not funny, it's one long ...(expletive)... night in the theatre.".
Stritch was unapologetically a mass of contradictions, as irascible as she was soft, as frugal as she was generous. One minute she was stuffing fruit in her Bendel's bag from a table display at a fancy dinner party - "I need fruit," - she shouted, as though strictly following doctor's orders, the next she was ushering a homeless man into the back kitchen of a fancy Italian restaurant on Madison Avenue and telling the manager to send her the bill.
Hal Prince, who directed Elaine in "Company," wondered how originals like Stritch originate. She was in his estimation, forever the naive convent girl and the sophisticated artist - qualities that made her an ideal interpreter of Broadway song. "And no one," Prince wanted put down on the record, "has come close to matching" her version of "The Ladies Who Lunch," the Sondheim number from "Company" that was her signature.
Stritch performed as Alec Baldwin's TV mother on the NBC sitcom "30 Rock". When Elaine told him that he was made for Noël Coward comedy, Baldwin was thrilled because Stritch not only performed in Coward's plays but knew him personally. "Of course you would have to lose 20 to 25 pounds first" she added with her usual stinging honesty - the very ingredient that made whatever she said on stage or off so unforgettable.
Actress Holland Taylor relates about the way her "gallant" friend would coordinate her shopping bags (filled with diabetes medical paraphernalia and "deli") with her outfits. Hermes went well with blue, Chanel always with black. Once she bought (or considered buying) anything, Stritch felt entitled to a lifetime supply of shopping bags. No ripped Henri Bendel bag for her when a fresh supply was just down the road.
"Ferocity built on vulnerability" is the way Cherry Jones summed up Stritch's character, as good a description as any to describe a Broadway talent whose outrageousness was equaled only by her raw humanity.
Accounts of Elaine Stritch barging up to a Broadway box office and asking for "a single ticket, somewhere in the back of the orchestra - gratis, of course!" The only time she was denied was at "Mamma Mia!," prompting her to add a middle expletive to the show's title!.
The documentary, "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" directed by Chiemi Karasawa, is anything but depressing. The former Catholic school girl has packed a couple of life-times in her 89 years. "Shoot Me" features clips and photos from her past and lively conversations about her work with Sondheim and Noël Coward, her brief - and chaste - encounter as a teenager with a young John Kennedy ("He was the best-looking guy I ever saw in my life") and marrying the love of her life, British actor John Bay, who died of brain cancer in 1982. The film also features interviews with such friends and colleagues as Alex Baldwin, who is an executive producer on the film, Hal Prince, Nathan Lane, Cherry Jones, Tina Fey, John Turturro and James Gandolfini. A chance encounter at a New York hair salon was the genesis for "Shoot Me." Karasawa was getting her hair done when she saw Stritch in the salon. "My hair dresser said she has been a longtime client, you should be making a documentary about her," Karasawa said. "I thought it was an interesting idea. I didn't know that much about her." But she had briefly worked with Stritch a few years before as a script supervisor on Turturro's "Romance and Cigarettes," in which Stritch played Gandolfini's mother. "I just remember she was a tornado of a woman. She just blew in there, and every take was different." It took about four months of conversations before Stritch agreed to participate in the documentary. And then there was no holding back. "We were astonished at the amount of access she gave us," Karasawa said. "I liked Chiemi very much," Stritch said. "We had a laugh or two or four or 75. I said all right, come, let's do it. I thought she's fun to be with." Stretch noted that she "opened up more than I had planned" to the camera. "But I said to myself, 'Why not tell the truth?'".
Noël Coward first saw Elaine Stritch featured in the much vaunted 1958 musical "Goldilocks" written and directed by the New York newspaper critic Walter Kerr and his bubbly giggling wife! Coward's opinion of the musical: "How does an eminent New York critic of his calibre have the bloody impertinence to dish out such inept, amateurish, nonsense! Elaine Stritch saved that show!" Remembering Stritch's performance, Noël Coward cast Elaine as "Mimi" in his 1961 Broadway musical "Sail Away" - "an excellent comedienne, wildly enthusiastic and very funny. An ardent Catholic, has been in analysis for five years! A girl with a problem." Elaine Stritch had a reputation of being tiresome, complicated and difficult; not bitchy and vile like some. Stretch, as Noël suspected began by being tiresome, over-full of suggestions and not knowing a word, but after a few rehearsal days she saw the light. "She was never, I hasten to add, beastly in any way, just fluffy and nervous inside, sure, authoritative and a real deliverer!" After Broadway, "Sail Away" opened 21 June 1962 at London's Savoy Theatre, produced by the London theatrical impresario specializing in musicals, Harold Fielding, after a two-and-a-half-week try-out in Bristol. Noël had Stritch for five days of rehearsal. Noël's assistant Coley was wonderful with Stritch and had given her a list of five words which must never again cross her lips - guilt, problem, scared, frightened, insecurity! Coward observed Elaine was completely confused about everything. "She is an ardent Catholic and never stops saying fuck and Jesus Christ. Like most Americans dreadfully noisy!".
Edward Albee's dramatic original Broadway play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" opened on October 13, 1962, starring Uta Hagen as Martha, Arthur Hill as George, Melinda Dillon as Honey, George Gizzard as Nick, In the play's July, 1963 through the 1964 closing performance schedule, Elaine Stritch performed the part of Martha, only in matinée performances. Noël Coward went to see Stritch play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" - "She was absolutely magnificent. A truly great performance. If only she could play it in London. She is really a fine actress.".
Broadway legend Elaine Stritch was Broadway's toughest broad. She had a career that ranged from Noël Coward's last musical to Tina Fey's first sitcom. When Coward saw Stritch's 1962 Tony award-nominated performance in his "Sail Away," the British playwright noted in his diary that she sang "so movingly that I almost cried." Almost five decades later, in 2007, Stritch earned an EMMY for her guest turn as Alec Baldwin's cantankerous mother on "30 Rock." Says "30 Rock" creator Fey: "Elaine was a tough old bird, but I suspect she may have been a 'tough old bird' since birth." Stitch's Roman Catholic parents allowed her to move to New York City from Michigan in 1944 to study acting at The New School (Marlon Brando was a classmate), but only if she lived in a convent. She landed her first Broadway role in 1946 and continued performing in New York City until her retirement in 2013. Stretch struggled with alcoholism -- in her prime, she was said to be capable of drinking friend Judy Garland under the table -- and stopped drinking in her 60s upon learning she had diabetes, which in tart fashion she called "a pain in the ass, quite frankly." At 48, Stritch married actor and Bay's English Muffin heir John Bay (he died in 1982). Broadway was always Stritch's home turf, but television bit parts gave her career a lucrative second wind, and she appeared on everything from "Law and Order" to "Head of the Class." But she did only one other TV sitcom with "Rock" in the title: "Third Rock From The Sun," in which she played Jane Curtin's mother. "She was of the theater and she brought the theater with her," said "3rd Rock" star John Lithgow. "She was idiosyncratic and kind of autocratic, but she was entitled to that and she knew it. I Loved her".
She died only twelve days after her September (1987) co-star Rosemary Murphy.

Personal Quotes (5)

[on friend and actress Vivien Leigh] Everything about that girl was sad. Except her talent. Nothing sad about that.
[on Judy Garland] I honestly believe that she was the most talented female performer of the twentieth century.
I was twelve, and my dad and sisters were downstairs in the living room having cocktails. My dad made what must have been a strong whiskey sour, and he gave me half. And a star was born!
Honestly, this is a big thing to say, but I don't think I've ever been bored. If I even get an inkling of it, I split. I love that lyric in "Thanks for the Memory": You might've been a headache/But you never were a bore. I think being boring is just the worst sin of all time.
On Haila Stoddard: She was a rare piece of work in show business, I'll tell you that. She was as fair as fair can be, and she had the taste and class to hire Noël Coward, and I hasten to add, me.

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