DOROTHY LOUDON was born in Boston on September 17, 1925 (most sources incorrectly cite her birth year as 1933) and grew up in Claremont, New Hampshire. She was the daughter of Dorothy Shaw and James Loudon. She came to Broadway
following a legendary nightclub career where she appeared at the famed
Ruban Bleu and The Blue Angel in New York, also Mister Kelley's in Chicago
ultimately headlining in Vegas and other premiere nightclubs across the country
Dorothy made her stage debut in 1962 in the pre-Broadway tryout of The World of Jules Feiffer in which she was the original Passionella. She sang the one song written by Stephen Sondheim and was directed by Mike Nichols. That same year she made her broadway debut in Nowhere To Go But Up which brought her the unique experience of being directed by Sidney Lumet and choreographed by Michael Bennett. The show had a brief run but earned her rave reviews and the Theatre World Award.
"This exhibition, funded by a generous grant from the Dorothy Loudon Foundation, presents a digital preview of just a small portion of the many treasures preserved in the Dorothy Loudon Papers at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts." NYPL
LIONEL LARNER was born in Southhampton, England and grew up in London and Wiltshire. He attended the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Britain's oldest theatre arts training school, where Noel Coward first met Gertrude Lawrence.
1977 Tony Award
Dorothy Loudon in her TONY-award winning role as Miss Hannigan in Annie
Her Broadway career spanned four decades in which she worked with the giants of the American Theatre (Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, George Abbott, Michael Bennett, Martin Charnin, Noel Coward, Jerry Herman, Katherine Hepburn, Charles Strouse, Chita Rivera, to name a few). She won her first TONY Award nomination and Drama Desk Award for The Fig Leaves are Falling (1969), directed by George Abbott. Mr. Abbott then cast her in his all-star revival of Three Men on a Horse opposite Sam Levene, for which she won her second Drama Desk Award. She then followed with:
The Women (1973), in Morton Da Costa's stylish revival in which she starred with Kim Hunter, Myrna Loy and Alexis Smith.
It was however, her outrageous and spectacular performance as Miss Hannigan in Annie, produced by Mike Nichols and directed by Martin Charnin with Peter Gennaro's wonderful choreography, with "Easy Street" bringing the house down every night, that brought her the coveted TONY award. It is interesting to note that during the four years 1979-83 she appeared on Broadway in five Blockbuster hits receiving rave reviews for each of them:
Annie (1978-79) as the unforgettable Miss Hannigan for which she won the TONY, the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle Awards.
Ballroom (1979), directed by Michael Bennett, receiving another TONY nomination, and her fourth Drama Desk Award.
Sweeney Todd (1980), directed by Hal Prince. She was Mr. Sondheim's personal choice to succeed Angela Lansbury.
The West Side Waltz (1981), starring opposite Katherine Hepburn on Broadway and in theatres across the country winning Chicago's Sarah Siddons Award for "Actress of the Year."
Noises Off (1983), directed by Michael Blakemore. Dorothy returned to New York to star in the American premiere of the London hit play, breaking records in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and winning a fifth Drama Desk Award.
She went on to star in:
Showboat (1996), once again directed by Hal Prince, originating the role of Parthy in the Chicago Premiere in which she starred opposite John McMartin.
She loved the theatre and shunned offers from Hollywood for film and television, of which there many, in order to live her dream of Broadway and the theatre. She was looking forward to playing Carlotta in Lincoln Center's distinguished revival of: Dinner at Eight (2002), directed by the late Gerry Guitteraz, but had to withdraw after the first preview when she was felled by illness that claimed her ten months later.
Miss Loudon headed the national companies of: Luv, Plaze Suite, You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running, and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds. She returned to Chicago as Daisy in Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy and Melissa Gardner in A.R. Gurney's Love Letters.
Her awards and citations are too numerous to mention but include the TONY Award for Best Actress in the musical Annie (1977) and Chicago's Sarah Siddons Award for Best Actress in West Side Waltz (1981) with Katharine Hepburn.
Katharine Hepburn said of Dorothy, "We haven't even began to see what she can really do. And not just comedy."
Noel Coward acclaimed her rendition of "World Weary" in the Broadway revue Noel Coward's Sweet Potato (1968) to be "the best ever."
Irving Berlin was asked permission for Dorothy to sing one of his songs, Mr. Berlin answered, "Dorothy Loudon? Give her anything she wants."
In Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik's 2004 book, Broadway Musicals, they wrote, "Dorothy Loudon, a singer/comedienne whose reactions were often three- act plays in themselves, had a vibrant, throb of a voice, a compulsion to please audiences, and the ability to turn her comic gifts on a dime into deeply affecting pathos ... her comic creation of Miss Hannigan has never been equaled, and her performance of "Fifty Percent" in Ballroom ranks with Dorothy Collins' "Losing My Mind" and Helen Morgan's "Bill" as one of the greatest torch song moments on the Broadway stage."
Stephen M. Silverman in his 1999 book Funny Ladies quotes NY Times critic Clive Barnes from his 1969 review of Fig Leaves are Falling: "What is good? One tremendous thing called Dorothy Loudon. She stopped the show - at least would have stopped it had it ever been properly started. Loudon is lovely, adorable, beautiful, wonderful, superb, and the kind of girl every man wants to call mother. She has a voice from way back when and a gleam in her eye never fiercer than when facing deflation. The important thing about her is that she is both lovable and vulnerable, so much so that I feel personally affronted at the way this show wastes her." Silverman goes on to recount "Loudon stopped the show with her 1977 TONY speech ... ('I always thought I could play this room,' she declared) and the TONY show producer Alexander H Cohen relied on her as a presenter for the next several years - rarely bothering to fashion a script for her ... In September of 1998 she appeared with Julie Andrews and other Broadway divas in the Carnegie Hall concert for the Public Broadcasting System's Great Performances Series My Favorite Broadway - Leading Ladies. Loudon sung her eleven o'clock number "Fifty Percent" from Ballroom, the 1978 Michael Bennet musical in which she had starred. And she stopped the show."
Her television appearances are also too numerous to list, including appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como Shows, suffice it to say that the Paley Center for Media, formerly the Museum of Television and Radio, honored Dorothy with an hour special of highlights of from her career including segments from her appearances with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and her acclaimed duet with the celebrated opera star Joan Sutherland from the Garry Moore Show where in a live performance they sang songs about New York for fifteen minutes. The show is available to view at the Center. Her frequent performances on the TONY Awards are still considered showstoppers.
Her voluminous theatre memorabilia spanning her career is in the final stages of being catalogued and archived at the NYPL Performing Arts Library.
She made only two feature films Garbo Talks (1984) and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997).
The news of this celebrated actress's death on November 17, 2003 was covered nationwide and internationally in all the major newspaper, magazines and television networks.
Dorothy Loudon made a formidable contribution to the Broadway stage, and continues to do so. She made provisions in her will for The Dorothy Loudon Foundation, which benefits aspiring actors, not for profit theatre, and AIDS research among others. In 2006 she was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. Since the inception of the Foundation numerous of grants have been issued annually supporting many not-for-profit theatre companies in New York, Washington, Chicago, and Albuquerque, AIDS charities, scholarships at NYU Tisch School for the Arts, feeding the hungry both locally and internationally, and the NYPL.