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known Gypsy's mother, Rose. Selma told me a few true tales about the ultimate stage mother and a fascinated Arthur began to visualize his musical Medea. When Arthur tried to tell his new star, Angela Lansbury, some stories about the real "Rose," she stopped him: "Do't tell me anything about that terrible woman," she warned.

Arthur says the late Gypsy Rose Lee couldn't tell him how she got her exotic nickname. When he asked, she said, "Oh, honey, I've told so many stories about it, I can't remember what's true." Arthur invented a version for his still vital musical. Later Gypsy said to the playwright: "That character of yours – 'Herbie' – why, he so good I wish I'd thought of him for my book."

The successful revival of Gypsy is a testament to the brilliance of the book, music and lyrics and to theatrical talents willing and able to fill shoes many people thought unfillable. In a time when it's fashionable to say one detests revivals, as some people say they hate cocktail parties, Lorelei, Candide and Gypsy are lovely rebukes to such generalizations.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN

In June, Circle-in-the-Square will revive another of 1949's original glories, reminding me especially of what 25 years ago

[[image – black & white photograph, profile view of actor George C. Scott]]

was like in this wonderful town. This time it will be George C. Scott, who plays Willie Loman, and Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. I asked Constance Ford, whose first speaking role on Broadway was in the illustrious original company (with Lee J. Cobb, Mildred Dunnock, Arthur Kennedy, and Cameron Mitchell) if


she had any memories about that quarter-of-a-century-ago experience.

"Well, I was only four at the time," she wisecracks. "Yes – I played a four-year-old hooker. Seriously, I was in that play two years and dressed way up on Morosco's fourth floor. There was never a night while I was waiting but I didn't hear something new coming up from that stage."

Death of a Salesman gave us all a catch phrase, Mildred Dunnock's line: "Attention must be paid." My crowd used it as a kind of psychological shorthand. Theatre experiences were constantly defining our emotions for us, clarifying feelings, summing up. The exhausting wartime Forties had ended and the Swinging Sixties' sexual and other revolutions hadn't yet started. The Fifties were quietly dull and looking back, I know now what the Chinese mean when they say no enemies: "May you live in interesting times." Our times in the Fifties weren't interesting but some of our theatre was.

[[Image – black & white photograph, a woman and three men stand on a stage set in 1940's-style clothing]]

One last revival memory. Joel Grey will soon be starring as the Dauphin in a musical about Joan of Arc called Good Time Charley. The announcement of this new musical reminded me of the incomparable Julie Harris as the impassioned Maid of Orleans in the Anouilh play The Lark. One day at Brooks Costume Company, during that 1956 production, costume mavens Alvin Colt and Joe Fretwell met. Alvin said to Joe: "A terrible thing happened last night at the theatre. Julie fell on stage and they had to take 18 stitches." Joe Fretwell gasped and asked, incredulous – "In her costume?"

Liz Smith did not become rich or famous in New York and still has her Texas accent. But she is the film critic of Cosmopolitan, a freelance writer, a theatre lover and storyteller.

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^[[2011.45.23]]
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