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Excerpt from "Journeys in the Night" by Theodore Mann
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Discovering Two Mountain Ranges in New York City
While Journey [Long Day's Journey Into Night, directed by José Quintero, starring Fredric March and Jason Robards] was running on Broadway we produced, downtown, Edwin Justus Mayer's Children of Darkness—which takes place at Newgate Prison in London in 1725. Originally produced on Broadway in 1930, Richard Watts Jr. of the New York Post would often lovingly and longingly refer to it in his review of other plays. Right away a young lady who'd been getting good off-Broadway reviews came to audition and José [Quintero, the director of the play] offered her the role without a reading. What director wouldn't with that great smile and warmth exuding from the tip of her toes to the top of her head? She was a sunburst! It was Colleen Dewhurst and she recommended her good friend J. D. Cannon for the role of Count La Ruse. Once we hired an actor to play the part of Lord Wainwright, we were off and into rehearsals.
After a week, we became dissatisfied with the actor playing Lord Wainwright and gave him notice. We put out a call for actors to come and audition for the role. There was only one scene that Lord Wainwright appeared in so we were able to continue rehearsals while we searched, but no one seemed right. It was getting dicey; everything was going well except—no Wainwright. Auditions continued and one morning around eleven as I passed the dressing room on the way to my office on the second floor, I caught sight of a tall man lying on the cot—not an unusual occurrence in a dressing room. But I felt something like a gust of wind hit me. I said, "Whoa." I tiptoed backwards to get a glimpse of this sleeping giant. His eyes were closed, a threadbare overcoat on, collar pulled up, unshaven, hands clasped on his chest, lying on his back. A beautiful strong nose was his most distinctive feature. Even though he was immobile, I felt a force about him, something like coming upon an ancient wooden shipwreck lying on the beach. I stood stock still gazing at him, then made an about face and ran downstairs two steps at a time to José who was auditioning and breathlessly said, "You gotta stop auditioning. I'm bringing down Lord Wainwright." José said, "I'd like to meet him." This was unusual for me because I rarely got involved in casting although I did supervise the choice of replacements in all the shows including Iceman [The Iceman Cometh]—José, once the show was up rarely came back and so instead of leaving the responsibility solely to the stage manager I oversaw those decisions. I went upstairs and whispered to the sleeping figure tentatively, "Excuse me." He opened his eyes, "We would like you to come downstairs and audition." He slowly rose majestically to his full height, which was a foot taller than me. Then he proceeded to the staircase taking his time—clearing his head and walking down like an emperor. When he got downstairs, José and I looked at each other and José shook his head affirmatively and I turned and said, "We'd like you to play the role of Lord Wainwright." He said, "What would you like me to read?" and I answered, "that's not necessary you already have the part here's a script. Rehearsal is tomorrow at 10 a.m." The next day at the first rehearsal I said, "I'd like you to meet Lord Wainwright. George Scott," and he whispered to me "George C. Scott." I repeated, "I'd like you to meet Lord Wainwright, George C. Scott." I once asked George why he insisted on the initial "C" in his name and he responded "it takes up more room on the marquee." The letter C also stands for Campbell which is his extremely talented actor/director second son's name. This also was the first time that Colleen had ever seen George up close, and as they say it was "love at first sight." More on this later. As we went into rehearsal, George was letter-perfect in all his lines. When George looked at the lines for a role he instantaneously retained them.
We now had one more week before previews. The rest of the play was ready but the scene with George, which was with Colleen, needed to be worked on. With José guiding them, the scene was ready in a few days. George had this idea to use a four-foot-long walking stick like you would see in a movie about the French royalty (before the revolution). George, at about 6'2", almost floated with his movements and he rested the stick at arm's length, so that his body was always in an elegant posture. He wore a long braided wig of the period that folded down his back and framed his strong profile.
Once George and Colleen got through the rehearsal and the play opened to excellent reviews the fireworks between them that had been lying dormant exploded! Within days they were in love and couldn't bear to be separated. Remember the feeling? They asked me if they could be alone in the same dressing room. So I gave them the only unused space we had—a tiny room that in the nightclub days had been the storage closet for mops, brooms, and pails. It was barely big enough for the two of them. When I would visit them, the room was so small I could only stand in the door frame to have a conversation. But these two giants loved the tiny space, in which they cooed to each other like birds. They also began living together and they referred to each other in terms that only lovers know. I don't know if they had other attachments at the time, but if they had, those just evaporated.
They were just so happy. My wife, Patricia, George, Colleen and myself all became lifelong friends. Early in our friendship they asked me to manage their finances. Their salaries from the Circle were $75 a week. They agreed that I would give them half for pocket expenses and the balance I would save for them for a rainy day. This was 1958, $35 was probably the equivalent of $350 today. Imagine, doling out an allowance to these bigger-than-life people. Their out-of-pocket didn't last very long. George went to the race track. He loved horses and betting on his favorites. Unfortunately, he lost most of the time. Colleen always needed more, what she spent it on I don't know—dresses, shoes, and some jewelry. She was more judicious, but as the week neared its end they both needed more money, so of course I always relented. I was trying to get them in the habit of not spending everything they earned so that when and if they made big money (which we all expected) they would be more responsible. Many times their "allowance" money was all used up and I advanced them some from my pocket so they could make it through the rest of the week. How could I refuse these glorious human beings anything? In 1958, they were really America's first rockets.
Recently, I had a dream that I was on the street looking up at a big plated glass second-floor window. George had fancy cowboy clothes with sparkles on. He was looking at himself in the mirror and brushed his hair back so it set smoothly—admiring himself like he did in Noël Coward's Present Laughter playing the role of Garry Essendine. In the dream I walked into the building and as I came out I was carrying Colleen in my arms to get across a heavily trafficked area. End of dream.
Patricia and I became more intertwined with them as our friendship continued to grow, visiting each other almost every weekend. Around the same time we both began our families. Pretty soon George left Children of Darkness to do a small role in the movie The Hanging Tree, with Gary Cooper. In that small role George walked off with the reviews! Then he was cast on Broadway opposite the grand diva Judith Anderson in Comes a Day, and once again, he got the reviews!
Now money was starting to roll in and George and Colleen moved from their tiny apartment to a penthouse on top of a commercial building on West 56th Street. The money coming in was so substantial—I felt I didn't know enough about investing so I stepped aside. What they needed was beyond my knowledge, and they moved on to an influential attorney and financial manager.
As time went on, our friendship deepened. Colleen stayed on in Children to play opposite George's replacement Richard Dysart. It ran for a couple of more months but business had fallen off so we were on to the next play.
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