Verdon in 1954
Gwyneth Evelyn Verdon
January 13, 1925
Culver City, California, U.S.
|Died||October 18, 2000 75) (aged|
Woodstock, Vermont, U.S.
(m. 1942;div. 1947)
(m. 1960;sep. 1971)
|Children||2, including Nicole Fosse|
Gwyneth Evelyn "Gwen" Verdon (January 13, 1925 – October 18, 2000) was an American actress and dancer. She won four Tony Awards for her musical comedy performances, and served as an uncredited choreographer's assistant and specialty dance coach for theater and film. With flaming red hair and a quaver in her voice, Verdon was a critically acclaimed performer on Broadway in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Having originated many roles in musicals she is also strongly identified with her second husband, director–choreographer Bob Fosse, remembered as the dancer–collaborator–muse for whom he choreographed much of his work and as the guardian of his legacy after his death.
Verdon was born in Culver City, California, the second child of Gertrude Lilian (née Standring; October 24, 1896 – October 16, 1956) and Joseph William Verdon (December 31, 1896 – June 23, 1978), British immigrants to the United States by way of Canada. Her brother was William Farrell Verdon (August 1, 1923 – June 10, 1991). Her father was an electrician at MGM Studios, and her mother was a former vaudevillian of the Denishawn dance troupe, as well as a dance teacher.
As a toddler, she had rickets, which left her legs so badly misshapen she was called "Gimpy" by other children and spent her early years in orthopedic boots and rigid leg braces. Her mother put the three-year-old in dance classes. Further ballet training strengthened her legs and improved her carriage.
By the time she was six, she was already dancing on stage. She went on to study multiple dance forms, ranging from tap, jazz, ballroom and flamenco to Balinese. She also studied juggling. At age 11, she appeared as a solo ballerina in the musical romance film The King Steps Out (1936), directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Grace Moore and Franchot Tone. She attended Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and studied under ballet enthusiast Ernest Belcher. While in high school, she was cast in a revival of Show Boat .
In 1942, Verdon’s parents asked her to marry family friend and tabloid reporter James Henaghan after he got her pregnant at 17 years old, and she quit her dancing career to raise their child.In 1945, she appeared as a dancer in the movie musical The Blonde From Brooklyn. After her divorce, she entrusted her son Jimmy to the care of her parents.
Early on, Verdon found a job as assistant to choreographer Jack Cole, whose work was respected by both Broadway and Hollywood movie studios. During her five-year employment with Cole, she took small roles in movie musicals as a "specialty dancer," She also taught dance to stars such as Jane Russell, Fernando Lamas, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe.
Verdon started out on Broadway going from one chorus line to another. Her breakthrough role finally came when choreographer Michael Kidd cast her as the second female lead in Cole Porter's musical Can-Can (1953), starring French prima donna Lilo. Out-of-town reviewers hailed Verdon's interpretation of Eve in the Garden of Eden ballet as a performance that upstaged the show's star, who reputedly demanded Verdon's role be cut to only two featured dance numbers. With her role reduced to little more than an ensemble part, Verdon formally announced her intention to quit by the time the show premiered on Broadway. But her opening-night Garden of Eden performance was so well received that the audience screamed her name until the startled actress was brought from her dressing room in a towel to take a curtain call.Verdon received a pay increase and her first Tony Award for her performance.
Verdon's biggest critical and commercial success was her following show, George Abbott's Damn Yankees (1955), based on the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. The musical ran for 1019 performances. Verdon won another Tony and went to Hollywood to repeat her role in the 1958 movie version Damn Yankees , famously singing "Whatever Lola Wants." (Fosse can be seen partnered with her in the original mambo duet "Who's Got the Pain.")
Verdon won another Tony for her performance in the musical New Girl in Town as a hard-luck girl fleeing from her past as a prostitute. She won her fourth Tony for the murder-mystery musical Redhead, Fosse's Broadway debut as a director/choreographer. In 1960, Fosse and Verdon wed.
In 1966, Verdon returned to the stage in the role of Charity in Sweet Charity, which like many of her earlier Broadway triumphs was choreographed and directed by husband Fosse. The show is loosely based on Federico Fellini's screenplay for Nights of Cabiria. It was followed by a movie version starring Shirley MacLaine as Charity, featuring Ricardo Montalbán, Sammy Davis Jr. and Chita Rivera, with Fosse at the helm of his very first film as director and choreographer. Verdon helped with the choreography. The numbers include the famed "Big Spender," "Rhythm of Life," "If My Friends Could See Me Now," and "I'm a Brass Band." Verdon would also travel to Berlin to help Fosse with Cabaret , the musical film for which he won an Oscar for Best Director.
Although estranged as a couple, Verdon and Fosse continued to collaborate on projects such as the musical Chicago (1975) (in which she originated the role of murderess Roxie Hart) and the musical Dancin' (1978), as well as Fosse's autobiographical movie All That Jazz (1979).The helpmate/peer played by Leland Palmer in that film is based on the role Verdon played in Fosse's real life. She also developed a close working relationship with Fosse's partner, Broadway dancer Ann Reinking, and she instructed for Reinking's musical theatre classes.
After originating the role of Roxie opposite Chita Rivera's Velma Kelly in Chicago, Verdon focused on film acting, playing character roles in movies such as The Cotton Club (1984), Cocoon (1985) and Cocoon: The Return (1988). She continued to teach dance and musical theater and to act. She received three Emmy Award nominations for appearances on Magnum, P.I. (1988), Dream On (1993) and Homicide: Life on the Street (1993). Verdon appeared as the title character's mother in the Woody Allen movie Alice (1990) and as Ruth in Marvin's Room (1996), co-starring Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, and Leonardo DiCaprio. In 1999, Verdon served as artistic consultant on a Broadway musical designed to showcase examples of classic Fosse choreography. Called simply Fosse, the revue was conceived and directed by Richard Maltby Jr. and Ann Reinking and choreographed by Reinking and Chet Walker. Verdon's daughter Nicole received a "special thanks" credit. The show won a Tony Award for best musical.
In 1997 Verdon appeared in an episode of Walker Texas Ranger as Maisie Whitman. She reprised the role in 1999.
Verdon played Alora in the movie Walking Across Egypt (1999) and appeared in the film Bruno , released in 2000. Verdon received a total of four Tonys, for best featured actress for Can-Can (1953) and best leading actress for Damn Yankees (1955), New Girl in Town (1957) and Redhead (1959). She also won a Grammy Award for the cast recording of Redhead.
Verdon was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1981.In 1998, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Verdon was married twice and had two children. She married tabloid reporter James Henaghan in 1942. They had a son, Jim, the following year and divorced in 1947. In 1960, Verdon married choreographer Bob Fosse. They had a daughter, Nicole, in 1963. Fosse's extramarital affairs put a strain on their marriage, and by 1971, Verdon and Fosse were separated, but never divorced. She was involved in relationships with actor Scott Brady and actor Jerry Lanning, son of Roberta Sherwood.Verdon was with Fosse when he suffered a fatal heart attack at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. in September 1987.
Verdon was a cat fancier, having up to six cats at one time, with the pets carrying names such as "Feets Fosse", "Junie Moon", and "Tidbits Tumbler Fosse".
Verdon was a mental health-care advocate; later in life, she openly spoke about the positive effects of mental-health counseling. Along with teaching dance as a form of therapy, she sat on the board of directors for the New York Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, and actively raised funds to support mental health-care research.
Fosse/Verdon is an 8-part American miniseries starring Sam Rockwell as Fosse and Michelle Williams as Verdon. The series, which tells the story of the couple's troubled personal and professional relationship, is based on the biography Fosse by Sam Wasson. It premiered in eight parts on April 9, 2019, on FX. At the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Fosse/Verdon received seventeen nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series and acting nominations for Rockwell, Williams, and Qualley. Williams won the Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Limited Series.
On October 18, 2000, Gwen Verdon died in her sleep at age 75 of a heart attack at the home of her daughter, Nicole, in Woodstock, Vermont.Later that night, at 8 pm, all marquee lights on Broadway were dimmed in a tribute to the hearty actress.
|1950||Alive and Kicking||Herself||Musical revue|
|1953||Can-Can||Claudine/Eve||Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical|
|1955||Damn Yankees||Lola||Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical|
|1957||New Girl in Town||Anna||Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical|
|1959||Redhead||Essie Whimple||Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical|
|1966||Sweet Charity||Charity Hope Valentine||Nominated – Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical|
|1972||Children! Children!||Helen Giles||Only played one performance (13 previews)|
|1975||Chicago||Roxie Hart||Nominated – Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical|
|1936||The King Steps Out||Specialty Ballerina||Uncredited|
|1945||The Blonde from Brooklyn||Girl in Nightclub||Uncredited|
|1951||On the Riviera||Specialty Dancer||Uncredited|
|1951||David and Bathsheba||Specialty Dancer||Uncredited|
|1951||Meet Me After the Show||Sappho||Uncredited, as a prominent dancer in "No Talent Joe", sung by Betty Grable|
|1952||The Merry Widow||Specialty Can-Can Dancer||Uncredited|
|1953||The I Don't Care Girl||Specialty Dancer||Uncredited|
|1953||The Mississippi Gambler||Voodoo Dancer||Uncredited|
|1953||The Farmer Takes a Wife||Abigail||Uncredited|
|1955||Gentlemen Marry Brunettes||Specialty Dancer||Uncredited|
|1958||Damn Yankees||Lola||Nominated—BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Film|
|1978||Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band||Our Guests at Heartland|
|1982||Creepshow||Voice of Lenora Castonmeyer||Uncredited|
|1984||The Cotton Club||Tish Dwyer|
|1985||Cocoon||Bess McCarthy||Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1988||Cocoon: The Return||Bess McCarthy Selwyn|
|1994||Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All||Etta Pell, Nursing Home Resident|
|1996||Marvin's Room||Ruth Wakefield||Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture |
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
|1999||Walking Across Egypt||Alora|
|1954||Goodyear Playhouse||Shirley Kochendorfer||Episode: "Native Dancer"|
|1972||Love, American Style||Estelle Mayberry||Segment: "Love and the New Act"|
|1973||The $10,000 Pyramid||Celebrity Guest||Week of October 22–26, playing against Godfrey Cambridge|
|1981||M*A*S*H||Brandy Doyle(USO performer)||Episode: "That's Show Biz"|
|1982||Fame||Melinda MacNeil||Episode: "Come One, Come All"|
|1982||All My Children||Judith Kingsley Sawyer||Unknown episodes|
|1983||Legs||Maureen Comly||Television movie|
|1984||The Jerk, Too||Bag Lady||Television movie; uncredited|
|1984||Gimme a Break!||Lily||Episode: "The Center"|
|1985||Trapper John, M.D.||Ms. Taylor||Episode: "All the King's Horses"|
|1985||Kids Incorporated||Ruth||Episode: "Grandma, Won't You Dance with Me"|
|1985–1988||Magnum, P.I.||Katherine Peterson||5 episodes|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
|1986||The Equalizer||Kelly Sterling||Episode: "Unnatural Causes"|
|1986||All Is Forgiven||Bonita Harrell||Episode: "I Can't Say No"|
|1986–1988||Webster||Aunt Charlotte||3 episodes|
|1987||Hotel||Iris Lloyd||Episode: "Second Thoughts"|
|1989||Dear John||Yvonne||Episode: "The Second Time Around"|
|1992||Dream On||Kitty Brewer||Episode: "For Peter's Sake"|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
|1993||Homicide: Life on the Street||Jessie Doohen||Episode: "Ghost of a Chance"|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
|1993||Key West||Sister Grace||Episode: "Gimme Shelter"|
|1994||The Cosby Mysteries||Yolanda||2 episodes|
|1996||In Cold Blood||Sadie Truitt||2 episodes|
|1997||Touched by an Angel||Lorraine McCully||Episode: "Missing in Action"|
|1997–1999||Walker, Texas Ranger||Maisie Whitman||2 episodes|
|1998||Promised Land||Karen Hatcher||Episode: "Undercover Granny"|
In 1956, Verdon released an album titled The Girl I Left Home For. The album includes her covers of popular jazz standards of the time.
|1953||Theatre World Awards||Can-Can||Won|
|1954||Tony Award||Best Featured Actress in a Musical||Won|
|1956||Best Actress in a Musical||Damn Yankees||Won|
|1958||New Girl in Town||Won||Tied with co-star Thelma Ritter|
|BAFTA Awards||Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles||Damn Yankees||Nominated||Titled What Lola Wants in UK|
|Grammy Awards||Best Broadway Show Album||Redhead||Won|
|1966||Tony Awards||Best Actress in a Musical||Sweet Charity||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle||Outstanding Performance||Won|
|1976||Tony Award||Best Actress in a Musical||Chicago||Nominated|
|1988||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series||Magnum, P.I.||Nominated|
|1993||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series||Dream On||Nominated|
|Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series||Homicide: Life on the Street||Nominated|
|1997||Screen Actors Guild Awards||Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role||Marvin's Room||Nominated|
|Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
All That Jazz is a 1979 American musical drama film directed by Bob Fosse. The screenplay, by Robert Alan Aurthur and Fosse, is a semi-autobiographical fantasy based on aspects of Fosse's life and career as a dancer, choreographer and director. The film was inspired by Fosse's manic effort to edit his film Lenny while simultaneously staging the 1975 Broadway musical Chicago. It borrows its title from the Kander and Ebb tune "All That Jazz" in that production. The film won the Palme d'Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.
Robert Louis Fosse was an American dancer, musical-theatre choreographer, actor and theatre and film director. He directed and choreographed musical works on stage and screen, including the stage musicals The Pajama Game (choreography) in 1954 and Chicago in 1975 and the film Cabaret in 1972.
Chicago is an American musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. Set in Chicago in the jazz age, the musical is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, about actual criminals and the crimes on which she reported. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the "celebrity criminal".
Sweet Charity is a musical with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon. It was directed and choreographed for Broadway by Bob Fosse starring his wife and muse Gwen Verdon alongside John McMartin. It is based on the screenplay for the Italian film Nights of Cabiria. However, whereas Federico Fellini's black-and-white film concerns the romantic ups-and-downs of an ever-hopeful prostitute, in the musical the central character is a dancer-for-hire at a Times Square dance hall. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1966, where it was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning the Tony Award for Best Choreography. The production also ran in the West End as well as having revivals and international productions.
Damn Yankees is a 1955 musical comedy with a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. The story is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. It is based on Wallop's 1954 novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.
Donna McKechnie is an American musical theater dancer, singer, actress, and choreographer. She is known for her professional and personal relationship with choreographer Michael Bennett, with whom she collaborated on her most noted role, the character of Cassie in the musical A Chorus Line. She earned the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for this performance in 1976. She is also known for playing Amanda Harris/Olivia Corey on the Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows from 1969 to 1970.
Ann Reinking is an American actress, dancer, and choreographer. Her extensive work in musical theater includes starring in Broadway productions of Coco (1969), Over Here! (1974), Goodtime Charley (1975), Chicago (1977), Dancin' (1978) and Sweet Charity (1986). In the 1996 revival of Chicago, she reprised the role of Roxie Hart and was also the choreographer, winning the Tony Award for Best Choreography. For the 2000 West End production of Fosse, she won the Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer. She has also appeared in the films All That Jazz (1979), Annie (1982), and Micki & Maude (1984).
Fosse is a three-act musical revue showcasing the choreography of Bob Fosse. The musical was conceived by Richard Maltby Jr., Chet Walker, and Ann Reinking.
Redhead is a musical with music composed by Albert Hague and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, who with her brother, Herbert, along with Sidney Sheldon and David Shaw wrote the book/libretto. Set in London in the 1880s, around the time of Jack the Ripper, the musical is a murder mystery in the setting of a wax museum.
New Girl in Town is a musical with a book by George Abbott and music and lyrics by Bob Merrill based on Eugene O'Neill's 1921 play Anna Christie, about a prostitute who tries to live down her past. New Girl, unlike O'Neill's play, focuses on the jealousy of the character Marthy and on love's ability to conquer all. The musical ends far more hopefully than the play.
Joan Hume McCracken was an American dancer, actress, and comedian who became famous for her role as Sylvie in the original 1943 production of Oklahoma! She also was noted for her performances in the Broadway shows Bloomer Girl (1944), Billion Dollar Baby (1945) and Dance Me a Song (1950), and the films Hollywood Canteen (1945) and Good News (1947).
Charlotte d'Amboise is an American actress and dancer. She has played starring roles in musical theatre, and has been nominated for two Tony Awards and won the Los Angeles Ovation Awards for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for Chicago. She has also appeared in films.
Leland Palmer is an American actress, dancer, and singer who has appeared on stage, in motion pictures, and on television. She appeared on Broadway in Bajour (1964), A Joyful Noise (1966) Hello, Dolly!, Applause, and Pippin (1972). Palmer received two Tony Award nominations: in 1967 for featured actress in a musical, and in 1973 for actress in a musical.
Damn Yankees! is a 1958 musical film made by Warner Bros. based on the 1955 Broadway musical of the same name. The story is a modern take on the Faust legend involving the New York Yankees and Washington Senators baseball teams.
Roxanne "Roxie" Hart is a fictional character. She is the main character of the 1926 play Chicago and its various remakes and derivatives.
Russell Brown was an American Tony Award-winning actor of stage and film. Brown, a stage actor for decades, is best remembered by audiences as Captain Brackett in South Pacific and for his performances as 'Benny Van Buren' in the stage/film version of Damn Yankees in 1958, and the following year as park caretaker George Lemon in the classic courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Murder (1959). For his stage performance in "Damn Yankees!", he earned Broadway's Tony Award in 1956, as did actor Ray Walston, actress Gwen Verdon and her choreographer husband Bob Fosse, among others, all for the same Tony Award-winning musical.
Chicago is a 1926 play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins that is best known as the inspiration for the 1975 Broadway musical of the same name. The play is a satire and was based on two unrelated 1924 court cases involving two women, Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, who were both suspected and later acquitted of murder, whom Watkins had covered for the Chicago Tribune as a reporter.
Valarie Pettiford is an American stage and television actress, dancer, and jazz singer. She received a Tony nomination for her role in the broadway production Fosse. She is also known for her role as "Big Dee Dee" Thorne on the UPN sitcom Half & Half.
Nicole Fosse is an American actress, dancer and producer. She is the only daughter of Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse.
Fosse/Verdon is an American biographical miniseries starring Sam Rockwell as director–choreographer Bob Fosse and Michelle Williams as actress and dancer Gwen Verdon. The series, which tells the story of the couple's troubled personal and professional relationship, is based on the biography Fosse by Sam Wasson. Norbert Leo Butz and Margaret Qualley also feature as Paddy Chayefsky and Ann Reinking, respectively. It premiered in eight parts on April 9, 2019, on FX.