Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: February 15

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: February 15
Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer in Come Back, Little Sheba.
Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer in Come Back, Little Sheba.

1905 Birthday of composer Harold Arlen, a cantor's son who cut his musical teeth in 1920s Harlem, and went on to write music for Broadway shows Star and Garter, Jamaica, House of Flowers, and Saratoga, as well as for the MGM film musical The Wizard of Oz.

1923 Gerald du Maurier and Tallulah Bankhead are featured in The Dancers at Wyndham's Theatre in London. Hubert Parson penned the romance of a dance hall proprietor who inherits a title and fortune but never forgets his true love. It surefoots it for 346 performances.

1933 One Sunday Afternoon stars Lloyd Nolan and Francesca Bruning as plain people struggling through hard times. James Hagan's drama runs first at the Little Theatre, and then at the 48th Street Theatre, for a total of 322 performances.

1939 Lillian Hellman forages the old South and comes up with The Little Foxes. Tallulah Bankhead leads the cast in the drama that runs for 410 performances at the National Theatre in New York.

1950 Before TV's Hazel typecast her as a frumpy maid, Shirley Booth won a Tony for starring in William Inge's drama Come Back, Little Sheba. Co-star Sidney Blackmer also takes home a Tony for the Theatre Guild production. Best Play, however, goes to T.S. Eliot's The Cocktail Party. Two years later, Booth repeats her performance as Lola in a film adaptation of the play, winning her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

1984 Stage legend Ethel Merman, Broadway's original Rose in Gypsy, dies in her hometown New York City at 76. She also created roles in the original productions of Anything Goes, Red, Hot and Blue!, Something for the Boys, Call Me Madam, and Annie Get Your Gun.

1998 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS presents its first annual Broadway Bears event. The fundraiser auctions off little stuffed bears designed to look like famous performers in theatre roles. Among the first ursines are a Barbra Streisand Funny Girl bear, a Carol Burnett Once Upon A Mattress bear, a Ben Vereen Pippin bear, and a Julie Andrews Victor/Victoria bear.

2007 Daniel McDonald, the dashing young star of the Broadway musicals Steel Pier and High Society, dies of brain cancer at age 46.

More of Today's Birthdays: Walter Donaldson 1893. Cesar Romero 1907. Kevin McCarthy 1914. Keene Curtis 1923. Claire Bloom 1931. Jane Seymour 1951. Bill T. Jones 1952.

Flip through photos from the 2012 edition of Broadway Bears:

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