“Why Some Star Actors Are Worth Weight in Gold”
The Evening Independent – Feb. 27, 1948
By: Billy Rose
[only portion referring to “Lady in the Dark” and Danny have been included]
In “Lady in the Dark,” as you and several million other customers remember, Gertie [Lawrence] played the bosslady of a slick fashion magazine. The plot of this musical concerted itself with her neuroses which were sprouting neuroses. Moss Hart fashioned this libretto with the English star in mind, and the sainted Sam Harris, who produced the show, had to guarantee Gertie $5,000 a week against a double helping of the gross. Like Cornell and Hayes, she was the show, and was in a position to call all the shots. And from what I heard around Broadway, Gertie frequently called them at the top of her voice.
During the last week of rehearsals, Moss got worried. Miss Lawrence had some cute
songs, including the one about her ship having sails of silk, but no slam-
The worried Moss cornered Kurt Weil and lyricist Ira Gershwin, locked them in a room
and stood guard. At 6:30 next morning, the boys emerged with a multi-
“Look, my pet,” Moss pleaded, “we’re going up to Boston to try things out. Learn the song and see how it goes. If it doesn’t click, Kurt and Ira will write another for you.”
And then came opening night at the Colonial theater. In act one, Danny Kaye gave a good account of himself, but Gertie was the star and the audience was given no chance to forget it. But down in act two, Danny stepped to the footlights and let go with “Tschaikowsky.”
The lyrics of “Tschaikowsky” were too hot to be cooled off, and Kaye had too much
of what it takes not to give. When he finished the funny tongue-
In the back of the house, Hart, Weil, and Gershwin gave each other the old “that-
And then “X” took over.
When the applause finally tapered off, Miss Lawrence slipped down off the swing, saluted Danny with a deft gesture, took stage center and went into “Jennie.”
Suddenly Gertie stopped being Miss Lawrence and became Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice
and Gypsie Rose Lee. As she reached the end of the first couplet of “Jennie,” Gertie
let go with a Beale street bump. During stanzas two and three, she did things with
her aristocratic derriere which had the audience in a wall-
Well, when Gertie finished they had to do everything but turn on the sprinkler system to quiet the crowd and get back to the plot again. And “Jennie,” the song nobody liked, went skyrocketing into theatrical history.