David Bruce: The Funniest People in Theater: 250 Anecdotes — Agents, Alcohol


• Walter Winchell used to write a column that frequently featured one-liners by celebrities; however, publicity agents, not the celebrities, often thought up the one-liners. For a while, one-liners by Alexander Woollcott appeared frequently in Mr. Winchell’s column, but eventually Mr. Winchell stopped mentioning Mr. Woollcott’s name. When this happened, Mr. Woollcott sent a message to his publicity agent, Irving Mansfield, and asked, “Dear Irving, whatever happened to my sense of humor?”

• Joe E. Brown was a vaudeville actor for many years, but he played in a star-studded movie version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a performance for which the movie studio did not want to pay him in money, but instead give him a car. His agent asked, “What would my commission be, a bicycle?”

• Eli Wallach once visited Israel in the company of his wife and his agent. While he was there, a street vendor in Bethlehem pointed to Mr. Wallach’s wife and said, “I’ll give you 10 sheep and 10 camels for her.” Immediately, his agent advised, “Take it — I get 10 percent.”


• As a young actress, Eve Arden once appeared in a play with Alice Buchanan. One April day, Ms. Buchanan, who was not known to drink, appeared much later than usual to get dressed for her part. Her face was flushed and her speech was slurred, and when she entered her dressing room, she refused to speak to anyone, preferring instead to sing drunkenly. Her friends were sure she was going to lose her job. However, just before show time, she opened the door of her dressing room, told everyone, “April Fool,” and then performed brilliantly on stage.

• The 19th-century actor George Frederick Cooke sometimes appeared onstage while drunk. In Richard III, he played the Duke of Gloucester, and at one point he staggered across the stage with his sword raised above his head. A member of the audience disliked the performance and shouted, “That’s not like the Duke of Gloucester!” Mr. Cooke stopped, faced the audience member, and shouted, “That’s not like a British auditor!” The act ended with applause (and a few hisses) for Mr. Cooke.

• An obviously inebriated gentleman came to the Court Theatre to buy a ticket only to be told by the box office attendant that he would not be allowed to buy one. The gentleman asked why not, and the box office attendant pointed out that the gentleman was drunk. Affronted, the gentleman replied, “But of course I’m drunk. Do you think I should come to the Court Theatre if I was sober?”

• Actor John Neville was unhappy in the late 1950s Old Vic production of Measure for Measure, so he used to escape to the nearest pub as often as possible. In fact, just before the pub opened at 5:30 p.m., he would lean against the door. When the door was opened, he would fall inside and say, “Sorry I’m late.”

• The 19th-century actor O. Smith, née Richard John Smith, knew his craft. In the drama Peter Bull, he played a drunkard, and one of his bits of business was to spill a drink, and then throw himself on the floor and lap it up. A poorer actor would have been laughed at.


• The great Shakespearean actor Sir Ralph Richardson had a pet mouse, which he sometimes took for a walk so it could get some exercise. One day, he was walking in a gutter over the mouse — to protect it — when a passing police car stopped to investigate. Sir Ralph explained, “I’m taking my mouse for a walk.” The police officer recognized him and offered to use his flashlight so that Mr. Richardson could better see the mouse. For a while, onlookers saw a little parade — the police officer with a flashlight, the mouse captured in the beam of the flashlight, and Sir Ralph Richardson watching over the mouse. Eventually, Sir Ralph felt that his pet mouse had gotten enough exercise, so he put him in his pocket, thanked the police officer, and returned to his hotel.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Late September Dogs — “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”


Music: “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”


Artist: Late September Dogs

Artist Location: Seattle, Washington

Info: This album is a “rock record with an orchestra.”

Price: $7 (USD) for 10-track album; track cannot be purchased separately

Genre: Rock.




Late September Dogs


Late September Dogs on YouTube