I have mentioned my great affection for the musical 1776 in these pages, so when one of the show's original players passed away this week, to quote the show itself, "Attention must be paid."
|Ken Howard and Blythe Danner played husband|
and wife more than once. In 1776, they played the
Thomas Jeffersons and on TV, they played spouses
who battled each other in the courtroom in Adam's
|I did not watch any of those 80s soaps about |
the rich and wicked, but Ken spent several
years on Dynasty and its spinoff The Colbys.
All the obits this week mentioned Ken's groundbreaking series from the 70s, the idea for which began with Howard's own childhood. Though born in CA, he spent his school years in the east; he soon reached his full 6'6" height, making him a natural for the high school basketball team. He was the only white player and was dubbed "The White Shadow".
|Ken's frequent costar Blythe Danner was married to|
writer Bruce Paltrow, who produced their series Adam's
Rib as well as The White Shadow. With so many years
working with the Paltrows, one wonders if Ken is
|The White Shadow|
|Liza played a young gal disfigured (with acid!)|
by a vengeful boyfriend, Ken played an epileptic.
Both their careers recovered quite nicely from this
financial and critical flop.
|A group of outcasts form a family in Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon. I'm not sure why I loved the film so much (I haven't seen it in decades, it vanished from view shortly after its release in 1970). Part of the appeal may have been the hilariously fey performance of Robert Moore (left) as a gay paraplegic (it was that kind of film). The movie also featured two more favorites, James Coco and Nancy Marchand, in supporting roles. Director Otto Preminger had such high hopes for this film that he took it to Cannes, where he was nominated for the Golden Palm. But stateside, everybody hated this thing, and it has been largely forgotten.|
|1776 was not Ken's only foray into musical theatre. Seesaw was a particularly troubled musical during out of town tryouts. Michael Bennett was brought in to fix things; he dumped just about everything, including leading lady Lanie Kazan. Michelle Lee, left, replaced her. Bennett doctored the script, with help from Neil Simon, and created a supporting role for one of his chorus members. That's Tommy Tune, center, who choreographed his own show-stopping number in the show and won the first of his ten Tony awards for his efforts (I wrote about Tune here). Ken remained one of the few constants in the show.|
|Ken's performance as Thomas Jefferson in 1776 is smooth as silk. Described as the most silent man in congress, much of Howard's performance is non-verbal. The clip below illustrates the strength of this interpretation. I've included a snippet of dialogue with co-stars William Daniels and Howard da Silva (both excellent). They are on high octane in this scene, while Ken chooses understatement. It works like gangbusters.|
|Our hero wasn't much of one in Grey Gardens, a TV film which told the story of Jackie Onassis's aunt and cousin first told in the acclaimed documentary of the same name. This HBO version included a character missing from the original: Phelan Beale, the wealthy attorney who deserted his wife and daughter ("Big Edie" and "Little Edie"), leaving them to rot in the mansion of the title.|
|Both Jessica Lange and Ken Howard won Emmy Awards for their work in HBO's Grey Gardens.|