Gwen Verdon

It was just another day on the Web. I wake up and take a look at what's been going on on TalkinBroadway.com, specifically "All That Chat" our message board, and there is was:

Gwen Verdon has died :( (n/m) - SM 12:45:41 10/18/2000

I simply stared at that message. n/m means no message, thus no verification. While my eyes were blinking very fast, I surfed playbill.com and broadwaystars.com for verification but nothing. Was this a cruel joke? And then I thought why am I so sad if it's true? Of course, it hit me later. Gwen Verdon was simply a legend on Broadway...and we fans just loved her.

For the first hour it was misery wondering if it was true. I immediately went to WINS 1010 radio's website but heard nothing. I emailed them with the "tip", and isn't that awful, but I had to know. A half hour later, they came on with a bulletin that, indeed, Gwen Verdon had passed away. One of our readers, Deidre, posted that she had heard this on WINS. Again, I blinked away the tears.

Talkin' Broadway's Richard Connema knew Gwen, and this is what he posted to the chatterati on "All That Chat."

Richard Connema: Sleeping in late today I got up and checked the forum. I was shocked at the death of Gwen Verdon. There was no news bulletin on any of the new lines that I look at before entering the forum.

I remember around 1950, way before most of you members were born, I had a friend working at Fox. I also knew Danny Kaye and so both of them invited me to come over and see some of the filming of On the Rivera. Some of the film had been made overseas but there were still some studio shots to be made.

The day I was there Danny said that a young and talented girl was going to be doing a specialty dance. The scene was set up and there on the floor was a young, young, young Gwen Verdon. After the filming I told her how great she was. I said we would see a lot more of her over the coming years.

Ms Verdon stayed in Hollywood and did mostly specialty dances for big budget films like David and Bathsheba and The Merry Widow. Her career was going nowhere.

I ran into her several times and you could see that she just had not broken out of the mold. It looked at that time she would be just another Hollywood dancer. Then came Damn Yankees. I ran into her just before she was going to New York for the rehearsals. She was nervous and excited about getting the role of Lola. I wished her well and said this could be your big break. Needless to say, it was.

In 1957 she returned to Hollywood a named person. Yes, even then she was a "star". Fortunely she came to Warners and I was able to renew my friendship with her. What a wonderful and outgoing person. Always laughing. Love jokes. She ate with us common folk in the commissary many times.

I followed her career on stage and saw her in Sweet Charity, Redhead and Chicago. I always made it a point to go back stage and say hello. She had remembered those days at Warners with great affection. I think the last time I saw her was during the filming of Cotton Club for Francis Ford Coppola. She had slowed down a bit but her wit was still sharp. Ms. Verdon still has two films that have not been released as of this date. Bruno a film starring and directed by Shirley McLaine and Walking Across Egypt a indie film starring Ellen Burstyn. It has played at several film festivals.

Gwen was one of a kind. Great dancer, great artist, great human being. We will never see her like again.

Here is what the chatterati have to say about Gwen Verdon.

  • Bob Stempin: At times, I feel so saddened with the deaths of so many great stars that I grew up with. With so many of them gone now, it would appear that the Great Producer up-above has been getting his cast together for His "Great White Way" hit"--the likes we mortals will never see. At least for now that is!

  • Jeff's Aunt: What a shock this was. We've lost a legend, truly one of a kind. I was privileged to meet her very, very briefly at the Sweet Charity concert two years ago, and it will always be an unforgettable moment in my life. My prayers go out to her family. She will be missed.

  • StevenD: It's a sad day on Broadway when one of the most loved legends of musical theater has passed on. Words really can't be said about her but luckily she leaves behind so many memories for people.

  • songster: Farewell, dearest Angel on magic dancing legs. We loved you for your unique charms, your enormous talent, your constant striving for perfection, and for being all the characters you played in Broadway musicals. In your classic signature role, SWEET CHARITY, you sang, "Where Am I Going?" Well, we knew all along where that would be...Dance Heaven! And if we are all so fortunate to eventually land there too, save the last dance for me! Thank you, Gwen!

  • Booth: We will never see her like again. She was a wonderful, caring woman with a heart of gold, a sterling sense of humor and a talent beyond belief. I've been crying all afternoon at Broadway's loss. I send much love and heartfelt condolences to Nicole.

  • Zachary: I'm totally saddened. I hadn't heard anything until I checked the forum, and BAM! Richard's post. She was truly one of a kind. Zachary.

  • Deidre: I adored her in "Cocoon", especially the scene where it's the "morning after" a night with Don Ameche and she's sitting at a card table fanning herself with this wicked grin on her face. I'm so sad today.
And, I too, am saddened. I've read all the chatterati's posts and I questioned why I tried to wipe tears away this morning. After reading the chatterati I took a walk after dinner in my neighborhood and smoked a cigarette under 2 big palm trees, and it hit me, and the tears fell from my eyes as I started to cry. I loved Gwen Verdon, as everyone else did. Surely, the lights will never be as bright on Broadway.


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