Cyril Ritchard Biography

Overview

Date of Birth
1 December 1897
Birth Name
Cyril Trimmell-Ritchard

Biography

Legendary for his preening, prancing, delightfully playful villain Captain Hook on the award-winning stage (as well as TV) opposite America's musical treasure Mary Martin, beloved musical star Cyril Ritchard had a vast career that would last six decades, but "Peter Pan" would become his prime legacy. Born in Australia just before the turn of the century, he was educated at St. Aloysius College and Sydney University wherein he slyly sidestepped a parentally-guided career in medicine for entertainment, participating in numerous college productions that quickly got him "hooked." He began professionally in the chorus line of The Royal Comic Opera Company and quickly progressed to juvenile leads. A subsequent pairing with the already-established theatre actress Madge Elliott in 1918 proved successful, and the musical twosome eventually married in 1935. Together they would go on to become known as "The Musical Lunts" by their acting peers performing in scores of plays and revues together. Ritchard specialized in playing slick, dandified villains in musical comedy and developed a potent reputation of being a man of many talents. Not only directing and staging Broadway's finest, he became a renown performer of various operas and helmed many productions as such. Shortly before his wife's death of bone cancer in 1955, Ritchard ventured into TV infamy by repeating his Tony and Donaldson award-winning portrayal of Hook. He continued to earn acclaim and/or honors with such classic stage productions as "Visit to a Small Planet" (Tony-nom), "The Pleasure of His Company" (Drama League award, Tony-nom), "The Roar of the Greasepaint...the Smell of the Crowd" (Tony-nom), "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Sugar," the musical version of the classic Billy Wilder film "Some Like It Hot" in which Ritchard played the Joe E. Brown role. Lesser regarded when it comes to film, he performed in the early Hitchcock classic Blackmail (1931) and made his last movie with the musical Half a Sixpence (1967) with Tommy Steele. While performing as the Narrator in a stage production of "Side by Side by Sondheim" in November 1977, Ritchard suffered a heart attack and died one month later. A one-of-a-kind talent, his nefarious, narcissitic humor was a career trademark that culminated in the role of a lifetime -- one that will certainly be enjoyed by children young and old for eons to come.

Spouse

'Madge Elliott ' (16 September 1935 - 8 August 1955) (her death); 1 child

Trivia

Awarded a Tony in 1955 for Supporting Actor in the musical, 'Peter Pan'.

Staged, and occasionally appeared in, several operas at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, most notably Offenbach's "La Perichole", in which he also appeared as the Viceroy, and Rossini's "The Barber of Seville", in which he played the role of the mute servant, Ambroggio.

A devout Catholic, he attended daily mass religiously in New York, where he lived, or in whatever city he happened to be appearing.

When he died in 1977, he was survived by a foster son.

Starred in a 1950 radio version of "David Copperfield" with Richard Burton in the titular role and Cyril playing Micawber.

At one time owned a poodle named "Trim" a derivative of his surname "Trimnell-Ritchard.".

Appeared in scores of musical revues with wife Madge Elliott, who was once a ballet dancer with the "Exquisite Eight" who turned to musical comedy. They became instant stars in the musical "Going Up" in 1919.

His very first role (in Australia) was in a production of "The Pink Lady" in which he played "the Satyr," a foreshadowing of the devilish merry-making to come.

During the 20s when he visited New York to perform, he shared an apartment with Walter Pidgeon. They performed together in the revue "Puzzles of 1925."

Won Broadway's 1955 Tony Award as Best Supporting of Featured Actor (Musical) for playing Captain Hook, his signature role, in "Peter Pan," a performance he recreated in several television versions. Was also nominated for four other Tony Awards: in 1957, as Best Actor (Dramatic) for "A Visit to a Small Planet;" in 1959, as both Best Actor (Dramatic) and Best Director for "The Pleasure of His Company;" and in 1965 as Best Actor (Musical) for "The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd.:

Mary Martin, in the role of Peter Pan, received a Tony for Best Performance by a leading Actress in a Musical in the 1955 Tony Awards. Cyril Ritchard won a Tony for Best Performance by a supporting Actor in a Musical for his dual role as Mr. Darling and Captain James Hook. Technical Director Richard Rodda received a 1955 Tony Award for Best Stage Technician. The Los Angeles and San Francisco Civic Light Opera founder and producer Edwin Lester acquired the American rights to adapt the J. M. Barrie's 1904 play "Peter Pan" and Barrie's own novelization of "Peter and Wendy" as a stage musical for Mary Martin. The music is by Mark Charlap, with additional music by Jule Styne, most of the lyrics written by Carolyn Leigh, with additional lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Incidental music by Elmer Bernstein and Trude Rittman. Musical orchestrated by Albert Sendrey. Directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Scenic Design by Peter Larkin, Costume Design by Motley, Lighting Design by Peggy Clark. Flying Supervisor Peter Foy and Flying Effect by Joseph Kirby. Prior to opening in San Francisco's Geary Street theatre district's Curran Theatre, the production was rehearsed at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. During the San Francisco performance schedule, additional musical material was ordered by Jerome Robbins and Edwin Lester, revisions continued when the expensive musical transferred to Los Angeles in August, 1954. The show opened in a busy Broadway season, competing with such notable shows as The Boy Friend, Fanny, Silk Stockings, and Damn Yankees. However, while still in Los Angeles, a deal was made for the musical to be broadcast on the NBC's Color Television network 90 minute anthology series "Producers' Showcase," that aired every fourth Monday, on March 7, 1955. "Peter Pan" opened on Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre on 20 October 1954, with a limited run of 152 performances, closing 26 February 1955, closed so that it could be broadcast on television, although box office continued to be strong throughout the Broadway run. The aim of the "Producers' Showcase" was to broadcast expensive color spectaculars to promote the new color television system developed by NBC's parent company RCA. On March 7, 1955, NBC presented "Peter Pan" live as part of "Producer's Showcase" as the first full-length Broadway production on color TV. This 1955 NBC television production utilized the same Broadway theatre where the musical had been performing with the color television cameras situated throughout the theatre's main floor and balcony seating areas. The television show attracted a then-record viewing audience of 65 million viewers, the highest ever up to that time for a single television broadcast program. Mary Martin won an EMMY Award for the 1955 television production. So well received that the musical was re-staged live for television on 9 January 1956 with the same cast, sets and costumes. Both of these broadcasts were produced live and in color, but only black-and-white Kinescope recordings survive.The telecast special followed with rebroadcasts in 1956, and in 1960 with the same stars, production costumes and scenery. The re-staged 1960 telecast had new children in the cast because the original kids had grown to old for their parts. The musical has enjoyed several revivals onstage in 1979, 1990, 1998.

Quotes

I have four notes, two of them good.

Other Works

Originated the role of "Sir" in the musical comedy "The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd."

"General Motors Fiftieth Anniversary Show" (17 November 1957), as himself

"Prudential Family Theater" (1950), as Marmaduke Ruggles (ep. 'Ruggles of Red Gap (2/27/51)')

Narrated an album set of the complete "Alice in Wonderland", for Riverside Records.

Delightfully read and sang Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" on a Riverside label (now defunct) audio recording, recorded in New York City in the spring and summer, 1957. This was directed by Barret Clark with the original music by Alec Wilder. Readings recorded at WOR-Mutual Studios, and the music was recorded at Reeves Sound Studios. Cyril Ritchard appears through the courtesy of Caedmon Records.

(1950) He acted in Arthur Wing Pinero's play, "The Schoolmistress," at the Saville Theatre in London, England with Fred Emney and Madge Elliott in the cast.

Everybody Loves Opal (1961). Comedy. Written by John Patrick. Scenic Design by 'Jo Mielziner' . Costume Design by Noel Taylor. Lighting Design by Jo Mielziner. Associated with Designer to Mr. Mielziner: Richard Casler. Assistant Scenic Design: Aristides Gazetas. Assistant to Mr. Taylor: George Sullivan. Directed by 'Cyril Ritchard' . Longacre Theatre: 11 Oct 1961- 28 Oct 1961 (21 performances). Cast: 'Eileen Heckart' (as "Opal"), Donald Harron, 'Stubby Kaye' (as "Solomon"), 'James Coco' (as "Doctor"), John Napier, Mister Tanner, 'Brenda Vaccaro' (as "Gloria"). Produced by Roger L. Stevens. Produced in association with Seven Arts Productions.

(1953). Stage Play: Misalliance. Comedy (revival). Written by 'George Bernard Shaw' . Production Supervised by 'Lemuel Ayers' . Scenic Design by John Boyt. Directed by 'Cyril Ritchard' . Ethel Barrymore Theatre: 6 Mar 1953- 27 Jun 1953 (130 performances). Cast: 'Tamara Geva' (as "Lina Szczepanowska") [final Broadway role], Barry Jones (as "John Tarleton"), 'Richard Kiley' (as "Joey Percival, an aviator"), 'Roddy McDowall' (as "Bentley Summerhays"), Dorothy Sands (as "Mrs. Tarleton"), 'William Redfield' (as "Johnny Tarleton"), Jan Farrand (as "Hypatia Tarleton"), Jerome Kilty (as "Gunner"), Richard Purdy (as "Lord Summerhays"). Replacement cast: 'Bramwell Fletcher' (as "Lord Summerhays"). Produced by New York City Drama Company ('Albert Marre' : Artistic Director).

Make Way for Lucia (1948). Comedy. Written by John Van Druten. Scenic Design by Lucinda Ballard. Costume Design by 'Lucinda Ballard' . Based on the novel by E.F. Benson. Directed by 'John Van Druten' . Cort Theatre: 22 Dec 1948- 15 Jan 1949 (29 performances). Cast: Essex Dane (as "Mrs. Wyse"), Cherry Hardy (as "Grosvenor"), Isabel Jeans (as "Mrs. Emmeline Lucas/Lucia"), 'Kurt Kasznar' (as "Signor Cortese"), Doreen Lang (as "Mrs. Bartlett"), 'Cyril Ritchard' (as "Georgie Pillson"), 'Viola Roache' (as "Godiva Plaistow"), Ivan Simpson (as "Mr. Wyse"), 'Guy Spaull' (as "Rev. Kenneth Bartlett"), 'Philip Tonge' (as "Major Benjamin Flint"), Catherine Willard. Produced by The Theatre Guild, 'Lawrence Langner' , 'Theresa Helburn' and 'Armina Marshall Langner' .

(1958). Stage Play: The Pleasure of His Company (1958). Comedy. Written by Samuel Taylor. Written in collaboration with 'Cornelia Otis Skinner' . Directed by 'Cyril Ritchard' . Longacre Theatre (moved to The Music Box Theatre from 15 Jun 1959- close): 22 Oct 1958- 21 Nov 1959 (474 performances). Cast: Cyril Ritchard (as "Biddeford Poole"), 'Charles Ruggles' (as "Mackenzie Savage"), Cornelia Otis Skinner (as "Katharine Dougherty"), 'Walter Abel' (as "Jim Dougherty"), 'Dolores Hart ' (as "Jessica Poole") [Nominated for Tony Award as Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Musical], 'George Peppard' (as "Roger Henderson") [final Broadway role], 'Jerry Fujikawa' (as "Toy"). Understudies: Jeff Killion (as "Roger Henderson/Toy"), Melville Ruick (as "Jim Dougherty/Mackenzie Savage"), Sandy Smith (as "Jessica Poole"), Ann Summers (as "Katharine Dougherty") and 'Patrick Waddington' (as "Biddeford Poole"). Replacement actors [during Longacre Theatre run]: Charles Robinson (as "Roger Henderson"). [during Music Box Theatre run]: None. Produced by Frederick Brisson and The Playwrights' Company ('Maxwell Anderson ' , 'S.N. Behrman' , 'Elmer Rice ' , 'Robert E. Sherwood ' , 'Sidney Howard ' ). Note: Music Box Theatre Owned and operated by 'Irving Berlin ' who had no direct involvement in production.

(1962). Stage Play: Romulus. Written by 'Friedrich Dürrenmatt' . Book adapted by 'Gore Vidal' . Directed by 'Joseph Anthony ' . Music Box Theatre: 10 Jan 1962- 10 Mar 1962 (69 performances). Cast: 'Cyril Ritchard' (as "Romulus"), 'Howard Da Silva' (as "Ottaker"), 'Cathleen Nesbitt' (as "Julia"), 'Russell Collins ' (as "Achilles"), 'Francis Compton' (as "Pyramus"), Drew Elliot, George S. Irving, 'Graham Jarvis ' (as "Apollonius"), William LeMassena, Allan Miller, Earl Montgomery, Michael O'Reilly, 'James Olson ' (as "Titus"), Suzanne Osborne, Jim Oyster, Edwin Sherin, 'Fred Stewart ' (as "Otto Rupf"), 'Dolph Sweet' (as "Chef/Second Gothic Soldier"), Ted Van Griethuysen, Harvey Vincent. Produced by Roger L. Stevens, in association with Henry Guettel. Associate Producers: Lyn Austin and Victor Samrock. Note: Theatre owned and operated by 'Irving Berlin ' [who had no direct involvement in production] and J.J. Shubert.

Puzzles of 1925 (1925). Musical revue. Book by 'Elsie Janis ' . Directed by Elsie Janis. Fulton Theatre: 2 Feb 1925- May 1925 (closing date unknown/104 performances). Cast: Dorothy Appleby, Blair & Co., 'Helen Broderick' , The Commanders Band, Cortez and Peggy, Lester Crawford, 'George Hale ' , 'William Holbrook ' , Jimmy Hussey, Dorothy Irving, Irma Irving, Elsie Janis, Helen McDonald, O'Donnel, 'Walter Pidgeon' [Broadway debut], 'Cyril Ritchard' [Broadway debut], Janet Stone, Shirley Vernon. Produced by 'Charles B. Dillingham' .

(1948) He acted in John Vanbrugh's play, "The Relapse," at the Phoenix Theatre in London, England with Paul Scofield and Madge Elliott in the cast. Anthony Quayle was director.

(1926) He acted in Archibald De Bear and Norman O'Neill's revue, "R.S.V.P," at the Vaudeville Theatre in London, England with Robert Hale, Joyce Barbour, Enid Stamp-Taylor, Mimi Crawford, J.H. Roberts, Quentin Tod, and Annie Kasmir in the cast.

(1942) He performed in Herbert Farjeon's revue, "Big Top," at the His Majesty's Theatre in London, England with Beatrice Lillie and Fred Emney in the cast.

(1945) He performed in Noel Coward's revue, "Sigh No More," at the Piccadilly Theatre in London, England with Madge Elliott, Joyce Grenfell, Graham Payn, and Mantovanni and his Orchestra in the cast.

(1953) He performed in William Chappell's revue, "High Spirits," at the London Hippodrome in London, England with Diana Churchill in the cast.

(1945) He acted in Johann Strauss and Eric Wolfgang Korngold's musical, "Gay Rosalinda," at the Palace Theatre in London, England with Irene Ambrus, Ruth Naylor, Trevor Glynn, and Jay Laurier in the cast. Richard Tauber conducted the Symphony Orchestra. Leontine Sagan was director.

(1975). Stage Play: A Musical Jubilee. Musical revue. Written by 'Max Wilk' [final Broadway credit]. Devised by Marilyn Clark and Charles Burr. Musical Director: 'John Lesko ' . Dance arrangements and musical continuity by 'Trude Rittman' . Music orchestrated by 'Philip J. Lang' , 'Hershy Kay' and Elman Anderson. Musical Supervisor: 'Lehman Engel' [final Broadway credit]. Choreographed by Robert Tucker. Assistant Choreographer: Steven Boockvor. Scenic Design by Herbert Senn and Helen Pond. Costume Design by Donald Brooks. General Manager: Victor Samrock. Directed by 'Morton DaCosta' . St. James Theatre: 13 Nov 1975- 1 Feb 1976 (92 performances + 2 previews that began on 12 Nov 1975). Cast: 'Lillian Gish' (as "Performer") [final Broadway credit], 'Tammy Grimes' (as "Performer"), 'Larry Kert' (as "Performer"), 'Patrice Munsel' (as "Performer"), 'John Raitt' (as "Performer"), 'Cyril Ritchard' (as "Performer"), 'Dick Shawn' (as "Performer"), Steven Boockvor (as "Performer"), Eric Brotherson (as "Performer"), Marcia Brushingham (as "Performer"), 'Igors Gavon' (as "Performer"), David King (as "Performer"), Jeanne Lehman (as "Performer"), Bettye Malone (as "Performer"), Estella Munson (as "Performer"), Nana (as "Performer"), Julie Pars (as "Performer"), Dennis Perren (as "Performer"), 'Leland Schwantes' (as "Performer") [final Broadway role], Craig Yates (as "Performer"). Understudies: Eric Brotherson (as "Performer"), Marcia Brushingham (Performer), Igors Gavon (as "Performer"), David King (as "Performer"), Jeanne Lehman (as "Performer"), Estella Munson (as "Performer") and Craig Yates (as "Performer"). Replacement cast: Courtney Pledger (as "Performer"). Swings: Tom Offt, Sharon Talbot. Produced by The Theatre Guild and Jonathan Conrow. Associate Producer: Merle D. King.

(1951). Stage Play: Buy Me Blue Ribbons. Comedy. Written by 'Sumner Locke Elliott' . Stage Manager: Allen Collins. Assistant Stage Mgr: 'Eugene Stuckmann' . Directed by 'Cyril Ritchard' . Empire Theatre: 17 Oct 1951- 27 Oct 1951 (13 performances). Cast: 'Philippa Bevans' (as "Nurse Fiske"), 'Audrey Christie' (as "Liz Kendall"), 'Vicki Cummings' (as "Camilla Ransome"), 'Gavin Gordon ' (as "Victor Hatfield"), Kate Harrington (as "Maude"), Jack Hartley (as "Alvin Sable"), Cynthia Latham (as "Norma Cusack"), 'Enid Markey' (as "Daisy Sable"), 'Wells Richardson' (as "Professor Oscar Nimrod"), Jay Robinson (as "Jordan Sable"). Produced by Jay Robinson.

(1963). Stage Play: The Irregular Verb to Love. Written by Hugh Williams and Margaret Williams. Directed by 'Cyril Ritchard' . Ethel Barrymore Theatre: 18 Sep 1963- 28 Dec 1963 (115 performances + 2 previews that began on 15 Sep 1963). Cast: 'Margot Bennett ' (as "Fedra"), 'Roger C. Carmel' (as "Mr. Andrikos"), 'Claudette Colbert ' (as "Hedda Rankin"), 'Robert Drivas' (as "Andrew Rankin"), 'Hilda Haynes' (as "Mrs. Couter"), Katherine Hays (as "Lucy Beckett"), 'William Kinsolving' (as "Michael Vickers"), Cyril Ritchard (as "Felix Rankin"). Produced by 'Alfred De Liagre Jr.' Produced in association with Orrin Christy Jr.

(1952). He acted in George Bernard Shaw's play, "The Millionairess," at the New Theatre in London, England with Katharine Hepburn, Robert Helpmann, Meriel Forbes, and Nora Nicholson in the cast. Michael Benthall was director.

(1959). Stage Play: Look After Lulu. Comedy. Written by 'Noël Coward' . Based on "Occupe-toi d'Amelie" by 'Georges Feydeau' . Scenic Design by 'Cecil Beaton ' . Costume Design by Cecil Beaton. Lighting Design by Raymond Sovey. Hair Design by Ernest Adler. Directed by 'Cyril Ritchard' . Henry Miller's Theatre: 3 Mar 1959- 4 Apr 1959 (39 performances). Cast: 'John Alderman ' (as "Cornette"), George Baker (as "Philippe de Croze"), Bill Berger (as "Emile"), Philippa Bevans (as "Aunt Gabrielle"), 'Eric Christmas' (as "Gigot"), Ina Beth Cummins (as "Little Girl"), David Faulkner (as "Florist Boy"), Grace Gaynor (as "Paulette"), 'Jack Gilford ' (as "Herr Van Putzeboum"), William Griffis (as "Photographer"), 'Tammy Grimes' (as "Lulu d'Arville"), Rory Harrity (as "Bomba"), Craig Huebing (as "Valery"), David Hurst (as "Inspector of the Police"), 'Kurt Kasznar' (as "Prince of Salestria"), Barbara Loden (as "Gaby"), Arthur Malet (as "Mayor of the District"), 'Roddy McDowall' (as "Marcel Blanchard"), 'Earl Montgomery ' (as "Oudatte"), 'Ellis Rabb' (as "General Koschnadieff"), Reva Rose (as "Rose"), Polly Rowles (as "Claire"), Paul Smith (as "Adonis"), David Thurman (as "Florist Boy"), Sasha von Scherler (as "Yvonne"). Produced by The Playwright's Company ('Maxwell Anderson ' , 'S.N. Behrman' , 'Elmer Rice ' , 'Robert E. Sherwood ' , 'Sidney Howard ' ), Gilbert Miller, Lance Hamilton and Charles Russell.

(1971) He acted in Cornelia Otis Skinner and Samuel A. Taylor's play, "The Pleasure of His Company," at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts with Maureen O'Sullivan in the cast.

(1964) He acted in Hugh and Margaret Williams' play, "The Irregular Verb to Love," at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts with Cornelia Otis Skinner in the cast.

(March 17, 1958) He acted in Gore Vidal's play, "Visit to the Small Planet," at the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.

(March 28, 1960) He acted in Cornelia Otis Skinner and Samuel A. Taylor's play, "The Pleasure of His Company," at the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio with Leo G. Carroll and Cornelia Otis Skinner in the cast.

(April 12, 1965) He acted in the musical, "The Roar of the Greasepaint--The Smell of the Crowd, "at the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio with Anthony Newley, Sally Smith, Joyce Jillison, Gilbert Price, George Hirose, Murray Tannenbaum, Rawley Bates, Lori Browne, Lori Cesar, Jill Choder, Gloria Chu, Kay Cole, Marlene Dell, Boni Enten, Mitzi Feinn, Pamela Gruen, Linda Rae Hager, Cyndi Howard, Laura Michaels, Debbie Palmer, and Heather Taylor in the cast. Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley wrote the book, music, and lyrics. Sean Kenny was set designer. Freddy Wittop was costume designer. Gillian Lynne was choreographer. Anthony Newley was also director. David Merrick was producer.

(1963) He acted and directed Hugh and Margaret Williams' play, "The Irregular Verb to Love," at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey with Claudette Colbert and Cyril Ritchard in the cast.

(August 1964) He acted in Hugh and Margaret Williams' play, "The Irregular Verb to Love," at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine with Cornelia Otis Skinner in the cast.