CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

One of the Best of 2003 :"Broadway the Golden Age, by the Legends who were There"

2004 anno domini will mark the passing of two cinematic icons; Marlon Brando and Fay Wray. While both legends paid their mortgages through their work in the motion picture industry, both actors earned their bones on the streets of Manhattan theatre, Broadway to be precise.

"Broadway the Golden Age, by the Legends who were There" is Rick McKay’s retrospective look at Broadway’s halcyon days from the 1920's through the mid 1960's. Unlike the heavily hyped musical theatre presentations that are broadcast on PBS during the network telethons, Rick McKay's movie spotlights both musicals and dramas. One treasure contains lost footage of Marlon Brando from his Broadway productions. Cast and crew comment on the intensity that Brando created during his public performances and how he was treated as the Olympic God of Drama, Thespis. Most appropriately is the attention given to Brando's co star from Kim Hunter.

A fellow alumnus from the Lee Strasberg Actor's Studio, Kim Hunter matched Brando on stage with the chemistry of Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh. Yet for all of her prolific work in Tennessee Williams dramas, Kim Hunter is best known for portraying the primate Dr. Zira from the "Planet of the Apes" movies.

Cinema's greatest ape is "King Kong" and the beauty who killed the beast was Fay Wray. While Wray came to accept her relationship with the mighty Kong, the actress preferred her work in serious drama. As a writer, Fay Wray partnered with Clifford Odets and frequently performed as an actress. While on Broadway, Fay Wray encouraged actor Archie Leach to change his name to Cary Grant.

The lesson of "Broadway the Golden Age" is the candid blue-collar approach of the hundred legends that Rick McKay interviewed. Acting was their higher calling, but saving money was a priority. Jerry Orbach from Television's original "Law & Order" discussed second actors. Because they could not afford the price of admission, second actors were actors who snuck into theatres during the second act of a show.

Despite sprains, pains, flu and broken bones, these actors became Broadway legends by showing up to work with more tenacity than a postman. For 2003, I ranked "Broadway the Golden Age by the Legends who were There" on my top tenlist. The film has had a successful run in film festivals and has been recently been released on DVD with an additional 90 minutes of interviews.

Given the passing of Gwen Verdon, Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando and Fay Wray, Rick McKay's interviews serve as an important documented oral history. Yet these Broadway Legends are not self-serving, but instructive. The stories these people have to share are fascinating and are inspiring and should interest anybody in any profession.

(To order the first generation of his "Broadway" series,
please visit )
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