Wednesday, January 05, 2011

WE REMEMBER JEAN KERN


The picture today is a photo from a Broadway show that ran almost 1600 performances. Neil Simon never runs that long on the Great White Way. The play is "Mary, Mary" The stars are Barbara Bel Geddes and Barry Miler. The author is Jean Kerr. Jean Kerr, wife of Broadway film critic, Walter Kerr was and remains one of my all time favorite writers. The things she wrote were national best sellers and Tony award winning plays and musicals. She of course wrote the world famous "Please Don't Eat The Daisies" and the very funny Broadway play called "Mary, Mary" which I had the absolute honor and delight running lights for for the San Gabriel Little Theatre right after my father died back in 1967. That starred Gary and Linda Hamner, two of the best actors on the planet and dear old David P. Klain who taught social studies at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights where my friend Tim Doran played piano for almost twenty years. Those were great years. Jean Kerr, whose wry wit and unerring eye for life's everyday absurdities kept legions of readers and theatergoers laughing with books died on this date back in 1980 in White Plains, New York. She was 80. She lived nearby in Larchmont, N.Y., and also in Westchester County. Mrs. Kerr was well acquainted with the glamour, grit and egocentric follies of life in the theater and capitalized on that experience. She wrote entertainingly and often about show business, musing about what to say when lunching with a prospective producer (order a drink, so you look relaxed, but don't touch it lest he think you're an alcoholic), or gloomily anticipating negative reviews of her latest work (''If I have to commit suicide, I have nothing but Gelusil'').But she also had an unquestioned gift for finding the comic in the commonplace anxieties of suburbia and married life. She cheerfully acknowledged doing most of her writing in the family car, parked several blocks away from the scrambling chaos of several children and pets (''There is nothing to do but write, after I get the glove compartment tidied up. The Kerrs made their debut as a team on Broadway in 1946 with ''Song of Bernadette,'' a dramatization of Franz Werfel's novel about a young Frenchwoman who was canonized after saying she had seen visions of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near Lourdes. It was not a success, nor was her solo writing effort two years later, a comedy called ''Jenny Kissed Me,'' about a priest who finds his household disrupted by the arrival of his housekeeper's niece.
Jean and Walter Kerr teamed up again in 1949 with ''Touch and Go,'' a revue for which they wrote the sketches and lyrics and which Mr. Kerr directed. The show was a hit, with sketches ranging from ''Hamlet'' performed as a musical comedy to a location rehearsal for a film sequence in which one of the characters, a trained ape, turns out to be smarter than the glamorous actress who is the star of the film. Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times,praised the Kerrs' ''breezy and informed wit'' and hailed the show as the best of the season. It was her quotes that always made me laugh.
Tidbits like "Getting Divorced is like getting hit by a Mack truck. If you survive it, you go around life always looking closely to the right and the left." Hats off, dear Jean. I hope the world will continue reading your many plays and books.

1 comment:

Joyce said...

Very good! I loved the article as much as I loved the blog! You are to be congratulated!