Give Your Video Regards to Broadway
Many Tony Award winners have never been made into a feature film. Among those unadapted arebest musicals “Wonderful Town,” “Redhead,” “Company” and “Fiorello!” and the best plays “The Real Thing,” “I’m Not Rappaport” and “Travesties.”
But for theater fans everywhere, film versions of numerous Tony-winning plays and musicals are available on home video. After watching the Tony Awards ceremony Sunday evening, consider checking out some of these earlier award-winners at the local video store.
“Kiss Me Kate,” best musical 1949
Cole Porter’s delight, about a divorced acting couple starring in a musical production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” was given the “A” treatment by Hollywood. Released in 1953, “Kiss Me Kate” (MGM/UA) was shot in 3-D and stars two of MGM’s biggest musical attractions: Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson. Ann Miller taps up a storm in support and look for a young Bob Fosse as one of the dancers in Miller’s “Tom Dick or Harry” number. Other standards include “Wunderbar,” “So In Love” and “Too Darn Hot.”
“The Rose Tattoo,” best play 1951
Tennessee Williams followed up his 1947 hit, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” with this comedy-drama about an earthy Sicilian widow living in the South who falls in love with a truck driver. The 1955 film version (Paramount Home Video) marked the American film debut of the renowned Italian actress Anna Magnani, who won the Oscar for her memorable performance as the slovenly widow. Burt Lancaster, though, is miscast as the Italian trucker with the rose tattoo on his chest.
“Guys and Dolls,” best musical 1951
The current revival of this Frank Loesser-Abe Burrows musical based on Damon Runyan’s colorful characters is the hottest ticket on Broadway and is in the running for eight Tony Awards.
The 1955 movie version (CBS/Fox) has everything going for it: an Oscar-winning writer/director (Joseph Mankiewicz of “All About Eve” fame), Oscar-winning Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra as the two male leads and several stars from the original Broadway production, including Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye.
But the film never comes to life. Brando can neither sing nor dance and Sinatra is miscast. Only Blaine as the adorable Adelaide and Kaye as Nicely Nicely shine through.
“The Desperate Hours,” best play 1955
The same year Joseph Hayes’ thriller won the Tony for best play, Paramount released the acclaimed film version (Paramount Home Video).
Humphrey Bogart, in one of his last roles, is terrifying as the head of a group of escaped convicts who hold a typical American family hostage. Fredric March, Gig Young, Arthur Kennedy and Dewey Martin head the supporting cast. William Wyler supplied the taut direction. Two years ago, Michael Ciminio directed a poorly received remake (MGM/UA Home Video) starring Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins.
“Damn Yankees,” best musical 1956
Two years after they scored a huge success on Broadway with “The Pajama Game,” the composing team of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross hit a home run with “Damn Yankees,” a tuneful and funny musical-comedy about a middle-age baseball fanatic who sells his soul to the devil in order to play professional baseball.
The 1958 film version (Warner Home Video) stars the amazing Gwen Verdon, who won the Tony for her role as the sultry Lola, then-heartthrob Tab Hunter as the baseball player and Ray Walston, another Tony winner from the Broadway cast, as the wily devil. Look for the film’s choreographer, Bob Fosse, in the “Who’s Got the Pain?” number.
“The Music Man,” best musical 1958
It may be hard to believe, but this wholesome, corny musical about a con man winning the heart of an Iowan librarian actually beat Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s legendary “West Side Story” for the best musical honors.
But “West Side Story” didn’t star the larger-than-life Robert Preston in his Tony-winning turn as the charming con artist, Harold Hill. And it is his vibrant performance that energizes the popular 1962 film version (Warner Home Video).
Shirley Jones as Marian the Librarian, Paul Ford, Buddy Hackett and a young Ronny Howard also star in the film. Meredith Wilson’s memorable score includes “76 Trombones,” “Till There Was You” and “Trouble.”
“A Man for All Seasons,” best play 1962
Robert Bolt’s sensitive, passionate drama about Sir Thomas More’s conflict with Henry VIII after he asks for More’s support to break with the Catholic Church and begin the Church of England, swept the Tonys in 1962. The equally stirring 1966 film version (RCA/Columbia Home Video) swept the Oscars.
Paul Scofield won both the Tony and the Oscar for his moving portrayal of More, and he’s ably matched by the great Dame Wendy Hiller, Susannah York, Robert Shaw (as Henry VIII), Colin Redgrave and John Hurt. Fred Zinnemann (“From Here to Eternity,” “The Search”) won the Oscar for his direction.
“Sleuth,” best play 1971
Anthony Shaffer’s clever, complex mystery-thriller has achieved cult status over the decades. Though the 1972 film version (Media Home Entertainment) is no classic, it is devilishly good fun, thanks to the Oscar-nominated performances of Laurence Olivier, as an aging mystery writer, and Michael Caine, as his wife’s much-younger lover. It is the last film written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.
Several adaptations of Tony winners that have been produced for television are available on video including: “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” starring Jack Lemmon, Bethel Leslie, Peter Gallagher and Kevin Spacey (Vestron Video); “Sweeney Todd,” starring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn (RKO); “The Shadow Box,” starring Christopher Plummer, Joanne Woodward, Valerie Harper and directed by Paul Newman (Simitar Entertainment), and “Death of a Salesman,” starring Dustin Hoffman, Kate Reid, Stephen Lang, John Malkovich (Warner Home Video).