Actress-singer Elaine Stritch, who died on July 17 at age 89 in Birmingham, Mich., wasn’t the sort who would go gentle into that good night — or any night, for that matter. The gravel-voiced Broadway diva, who made her career playing what the New York Times once called “brash and bawdy characters,” preferred staying out late, and having a cigarette and a drink or three.
“I don’t regret a day of my life,” as she once told an interviewer.
In a career that stretched nearly 70 years, Stritch appeared in movies ranging from the 1957 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms to Woody Allen’s 1987 film September. She also worked extensively on the small screen, and won Emmy awards as a fierce defense attorney on Law & Order and as the eccentric mother of Alec Baldwin’s character on 30 Rock.
But it was on the Broadway stage that Stritch made her most powerful impression. She starred in productions ranging from William Inge’s 1955 play Bus Stop and Noël Coward’s 1961 musical Sail Away to the 1994 revival of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical Show Boat and the 2010 version of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. But it was “I’m Still Here,” a song from another Sondheim play, Follies, that she turned into what some call her personal anthem. Here she is, performing it at the White House a few years ago.
Here are some facts about Stritch and her life.
- The daughter of a B.F. Goodrich executive and his wife, she reportedly was introduced to show business at age 4, when her father took her backstage to meet a comedian from The Ziegfeld Follies.
- After she graduated from high school, her parents allowed her to move to New York to become an actress — but only if she agreed to live in a convent while she was there.
- She made her Broadway debut in a 1947 musical revue, Angel in the Wings.
- She was in the running for the role of Trixie Norton on the classic TV show “The Honeymooners” but lost out to Joyce Randolph because Jackie Gleason thought her personality was too similar to his.
- In the mid-1980s, she was cast in Allen’s September as a replacement for the ailing Maureen Sullivan, and gave such an impressive performance that she again was in demand in Hollywood.
- Her autobiographical stage show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, in which she talked candidly about her love life and battles with the bottle, was made into a 2004 HBO special that won her another Emmy. Here’s a clip in which she reminisces about her acting school classmate Marlon Brando.
Photo: Stritch in 2009 by Greg Hernandez via Wikipedia
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