Skip to main content

She first came to prominence in the 1952 revival of Pal Joey, in which she sang "Zip":

Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89."2"%3A"RI%

But her signature song, since Stephen Sondheim's Company premiered with Elaine playing Joanne, has been "The Ladies Who Lunch." And here's a video that must be almost contemporaneous with that premier, courtesy of NYC's PBS Channel 13:


Ms. Stritch’s career began in the 1940s and spanned almost 70 years. She made her fair share of appearances in movies, including Woody Allen’s “September” (1987) and “Small Time Crooks” (2000), and on television; well into her 80s, she had a recurring role on the NBC comedy “30 Rock” as the domineering mother of the television executive played by Alec Baldwin.

But the stage was her true professional home. Whether in musicals, nonmusical dramas or solo cabaret shows, she drew audiences to her with her whiskey voice, her seen-it-all manner and the blunt charisma of a star.{"2"%3A"RI%

Charles Isherwood in the Times:

Onstage and off, Ms. Stritch was strikingly blunt about needing to be loved by an audience, although in her later cabaret performances, her first words might be how terrified she was to be up there. Perhaps more than any other performer, she embodied the contradictions that churn in the hearts of so many actors and singers: Her constitution seemed to be equal parts self-assurance and self-doubt, arrogance and vulnerability. A need to be admired did constant combat with a nagging fear of being rejected.

But unlike most performers, Ms. Stritch never felt the necessity (or had the filter) to mask either the egotism or the fragility, in public or in private. She made the complications of her own personality part of her art, indeed the wellsprings of it. And in acknowledging the depth of her needs, she touched a universal chord.

For evidence of her singularity, consider that the greatest role she ever played was the demanding one of Elaine Stritch, in the blazing one-woman show “Elaine Stritch: At Liberty,” in which she related, in sardonic song and salty story, the turbulent arc of her life and career on Broadway and in the West End of London: the boozy all-nighters with Judy Garland, the emotional tussle with a young Marlon Brando, the privilege of having no less than Noël Coward write a musical for her.

Nakedly honest, and practically naked — she wore just black tights and a man’s shirt, referring to herself at one point as “an existential problem in tights” — Ms. Stritch gave a performance that set an unmatched standard for solo shows about the unlikely breaks, tough knocks and heady but dangerous highs of life in showbiz.{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A12%22}

Another signature song: "Broadway Baby":

An interview the New York Times did with her some years ago:

Entertainment Weekly put together some clips of Elaine from her role on 30 Rock:

Originally posted to Theatricals on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by An Ear for Music.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site