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Writing to Gertrude Lawrence about “Lady on the Dark”

$4200 net
Item: 22558
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WEILL, KURT. (1900‑1950). German‑born, American composer of The Threepenny Opera, Mahagonny and other stage works. TLS. (“Kurt Weill”). 1p. Narrow 4to. Suffern, October 7, 1940. To English actress GERTRUDE LAWRENCE (1898-1952).

“Thanks a lot for your letter. I am awfully sorry that this road tour is so strenuous for you and in reading your letter I realized that it would really be very difficult for you to start rehearsals on our play the same day you are closing Skylark. As you know I talked immediately to Sam Harris and Moss about this matter. We all had hoped that you could quit this road tour a bit earlier, but since that does not seem possible, we all agreed that we should make it possible for you to get a two weeks’ rest, and we decided therefore to postpone rehearsals, for your sake, until December 2nd, although you can imagine how tough that is for us. Your husband told me that you would like to have somebody to check up on your voice during your two weeks vacation in November. I am always somewhat afraid of singing teachers because I have seen them spoil the individual qualities of natural voices in many cases (and I think you have a wonderful natural voice). I think what you want is somebody who would help you to relax your voice after the hardships of this road tour. I got very good reports about Clarissa Bates (222 Central Park South) who has done just this kind of work with very good results. I hear that she has prepared Jane Pickens for the Ed Wynn show and that everybody was very satisfied. Do you want me to talk to her? In the meantime, I will ask some more people because I would like to find the best person for you. I am working on the orchestration of the score now and the show looks very good. In a few weeks Ira will come back because there is still some work to do. I hope to hear back from you. Please take care of yourself…”

Poster for Lady in the Dark

Gertrude Lawrence in Kurt Weill’s “Lady in the Dark”

Weill, whose music was influenced by Mahler, Schoenberg and Stravinsky, began composing at a young age, drawing the attention of many prominent colleagues of his day. In 1928, he wrote his best-known work, The Threepenny Opera, which included his famous song “Mack the Knife.” With the Nazi rise to power, Weill fled Germany and eventually settled in New York where he formed working relationships with Bruno Walter, Fritz Lang and American lyricist Ira Gershwin (1896-1984), with whom he created Lady in the Dark for Gertrude Lawrence, the recipient of our letter.

Lady in the Dark marked Ira’s first Broadway show since the death of his brother George in 1937. Produced by the legendary Sam Harris (1872-1941), with a libretto by American playwright Moss Hart (1904-1961), this intriguing look at psychoanalysis was suggested to Hart by his own analyst, Dr. Lawrence Kubie (who also treated Weill, Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams and other  celebrities). The show opened after a brief rehearsal period on January 23, 1941 and was a hit, running through May 30, 1942 and establishing Weill’s Broadway reputation. Brook Atkinson, in his New York Times review of Lady in the Dark, hailed Weill as “the best writer of theatre music in the country,” to which Weill reportedly quipped that “given the competition that really isn’t saying too much.”

At the time of our letter, Lawrence had just married her second husband, theatrical producer Richard Aldrich (1902-1986), and was finishing the Broadway run of Samson Raphaelson’s Skylark, in which she played the leading role. Other Lady in the Dark cast members included Danny Kaye and Victor Mature. Our letter also mentions American singer and Broadway performer Jane Pickens (1909-1983) who, from October 1940 to March 1941, performed in Boys and Girls Together, produced by American actor Ed Wynn (1886-1966).

Some age-toning and folded into quarters, otherwise a fine and uncommon example, especially with such good content.

Writing to Gertrude Lawrence about “Lady on the Dark”

$4200 net • item #22558

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