Posts with the tag: Broadway

The Archivist’s Nook: Robert Moore – Catholic U’s Man of Stage for All Seasons

 

Robert Moore with Carol ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ Channing, with her autograph. 1970s. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Father Gilbert Vincent Ferrer Hartke, O.P., founder of the Drama Department at Catholic University (CU) in 1937, is a campus legend who casts a long shadow. His legacy includes his archival papers that reside in Special Collections, ongoing stage productions including Shakespeare, and above all the long list of stage, film, and television luminaries taught or mentored by CU’s B.M.O.C. These include Jon Voight, Helen Hayes, John Slattery, Ed McMahon, Philip Bosco, Henry Gibson, Susan Sarandon, Lawrence Luckinbill, and Robert Moore. Moore (1927-1984) was a multiple Tony Award nominee director and actor who often collaborated with Neil Simon. Like Hartke, Moore also has a presence on campus, where his small collection, mostly entertainment industry related photographs, is housed in our Special Collections.

Poignant postwar letter from a German P.O.W. befriended by Moore when the latter served in the United States Navy in World War II. 1947. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Moore was born in Detroit and grew up in Washington. He attended public schools and graduated from Roosevelt High School where he was heavily influenced by drama coach Pauline Eaton Oak. He served for six months in the United States Navy in 1945, and then studied drama sans degree under Fr. Hartke at Catholic University. His first acting gig, to limited success, was in Jean Kerr’s Jenny Kissed Me in 1948. He also worked as typist for the United Nations and at Catholic University. In the 1950s, Hartke invited him to direct summer productions, at least twenty each, at Olney Theater in Maryland and Winooski, Vermont.

Robert Moore clowning on the set of TV’s Rhoda with star Valerie Harper, ca. 1974. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Moore made his New York directing debut in 1968 with The Boys in the Band, written by CU classmate Mart Crowley and which won Moore the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Direction of a Play. It ran for three years, simultaneously with Promises, Promises and Last of the Red Hot Lovers. His later stage directions, which garnered five Tony Award nominations, included Deathtrap, They’re Playing Our Song, Woman of the Year, and My Fat Friend.

Poster of The Cheap Detective, 1978. Internet Open Source.

He also directed many episodes of the television situation comedies, Rhoda, starring Valerie Harper, and The Bob Newhart Show. He also directed three films written by Neil Simon, Murder by Death, The Cheap Detective, and Chapter Two, as well as a television version of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and made for television film Thursday’s Game.

Robert Moore and boxing legend Muhammed Ali, 1970s. Special Collections, Catholic University.

As an actor, he played a disabled gay man opposite Liza Minelli in the 1970 drama Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon. He also appeared in episodes of the aforementioned Rhoda, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Diana Rigg’s Diana. He died at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York of pneumonia, due to AIDS complications, one of the early celebrity casualties of that dreaded malady.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: From Catholic University to Broadway – The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection

Booklet title page that accompanied the “Sing Out, Sweet Land” album, 1946.

This week’s Archivist’s Nook is by Morgan McKeon, graduate student in the Department of Library and Information Science.

Walter and Jean Kerr, partners in life and art, were figures of the dramatic arts from Catholic University to Broadway. Their work spanned from the stage to the televisions of the American public. Together, Walter and Jean Kerr had a fruitful artistic and familial partnership. Their first collaboration in 1942, the musical comedy “Count Me In,” opened at Catholic University and was produced in New York in 1942. Their Catholic University musical, “Sing Out, Sweet Land,” was brought to Broadway in 1944. 1946 saw their Broadway debut as a team with “Song of Bernadette.”

Walter Kerr alongside Josephine Callan directing Sing Out Sweet Land, 1944.

Walter Kerr became a professor of speech and drama at Catholic University in 1939 after it was founded by Father Gilbert Hartke in 1937. Alongside Hartke, Kerr helped develop the department and supported it through his direction of stage productions as well as writing original works to be performed at the university. By Spring of 1939 Kerr “wrote and directed his first production at the university, a one-act play entitled Hyacinth on Wheels.”¹ While popular among the students, Kerr decided to move on from academia in 1951. Walter Kerr continued to write and direct works for the stage – he also turned his attention to criticism. For his work as a critic, he would win a Pulitzer Prize in 1978. In 1966 he became the chief drama critic for the New York Times. Though hired as the soul critic, Kerr made the decision to only write for the Sunday edition so that he would not be the only opinion. “I saw in advance that the power of the Times, with one man writing both daily and Sunday, would be absolute. I wanted the vote split, and the Times was quick to agree.”² Due to his writing style, he made the theatre accessible to a wide audience – Newsweek even deemed him a “supercritic”.³ Though he was an influential critic, Kerr was not without those who criticized his reviews. In 1965 The Village Voice “presented him with an award for his ‘outstanding disservice to the modern theatre.’”⁴ During his career, Kerr was often critical of work that he though too musically ambitious or overrun with pretension. Despite some critics, Kerr won a Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for his criticism, was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1983, and was honored in 1990 when Manhattan’s restored Ritz Theatre was renamed the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Fr. Hartke and Walter Kerr.

Jean Kerr, was successful in her own right. Her theatrical works and publications were admired for their humor and “unerring eye for life’s everyday absurdities.” She won a Tony Award in 1961 for King of Hearts – but it was Please, Don’t Eat the Daisies that brought her into popular culture. Published in 1957, this collection of essays (based on her life as a mother and wife to an important critic) became a best-seller. It was adapted into a film in 1960 and made into a short-lived television series in 1965. In 1973, Jean Kerr won The National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal Award for distinguished service to humanity.

It was not until the processing of this collection that I learned about the contributions of the Kerr’s. The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection is made up largely of awards received by Walter and Jean. The Catholic University of America continues to live the legacy of Father Hartke, Walter and Jean Kerr – as well as the others that were central to the development of the Drama department. Their collection provides an important element to the holdings at Catholic University – providing another look at important figures that found themselves in Brookland. The Kerr’s found in themselves and through each other the desire to create for and support the theatrical arts. With every new production, Walter and Jean Kerr live on both at the Catholic University of America and the Broadway stage.

Jean Kerr and Adlai Stevenson, ca. 1950s.

The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection can be viewed here: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/kerr.cfm


¹Mary Jo Santo Pietro, Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy to the American Theatre (Washington: The Catholic University Press, 2002), 70.

²Roderick Bladel, Walter Kerr: An Analysis of His Criticism (Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1976), 1.

³Bladel, 1.

⁴Bladel, 2.