After Fosse Verdon: What Next? Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya; Lunt and Fontanne

Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, subject of TV series on Fx

Fosse Verdon, the FX TV series about the marriage and artistic collaboration between Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, ends its eight-episode run on May 28, 2019. What other theater couples from the past would make good TV series? Here are three suggestions:

(Please add your own suggestions in the comments section.)

Davis Dee: Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee met playing sweethearts in a play called “Jeb” on Broadway in 1946, and performed together on stage in 10 more plays, including in the  original Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun.” (Davis took over Walter Younger, after Sidney Poitier left.) From there they went to Hollywood, where they appeared together or separately in more than 50 movies. They were also activists in the Civil Rights Movement, together serving as Masters of Ceremonies for the 1963 March on Washington, most remembered now for Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech.

They were married for 57 years, until Davis’ death in 2005. What might sweeten the pot for certain producers, certainly on cable, is that in their joint autobiography they revealed “we decided to give ourselves permission to sleep with other partners if we wished.” Their partnership was romantic, familial, professional, artistic and political.

Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya

He was born the song of a cantor in Germany, she the daughter of a working class Catholic family in Vienna.  They met when she auditioned for his first stage show. They got married in 1926, divorced in 1933 and remarried in 1937 after both had escaped the Nazis and emigrated to the United States. There second marriage that lated until Weill’s death in 1950. Weill was a composer best known for writing The Threepenny Opera with Bertolt Brecht, which included the hit ballad “Mack the Knife”. and became a Tony-winning Broadway songwriter, where he worked with the likes of Moss Hart and Ira Gershwin. Lenya was a singer and actress who served as Weill’s muse, and outlived him by 31 years. She worked to spread his legacy; She was present in the studio when Louis Armstrong recorded Brecht-Weill’s “Mack the Knife,” Armstrong improvising the line “Look out for Miss Lotte Lenya” Lenya resumed a career on stage and in the movies, including a Tony-Winning performance in Threepenny Opera in 1956, a Tony-nominated performance in the original Broadway production of “Cabaret” (which is said to have been inspired by Weill’s music), an Oscar-nominated role in the film version of Tennessee Williams’ “The Roman Spring of  Mrs. Stone,” and as the sadistic Rosa Klebb in the 1963 James Bond movie “From Russia with Love.”


Lunt and Fontanne

With a Broadway theater which since 1958 has been named after them, Alfred Lunt  and Lynn Fontanne have a reputation as the greatest husband-and-wife team in the history of the theater, having performed together in mo than two dozen theatrical productions. In several of the plays, such as Noel Coward’s “Design For Living,” they played an adulterous couple.  Their marriage lasted for 55 years, although “rumored” to be a lavender marriage — meaning, one or both partners were gay. In any case, it was purportedly a tumultuous relationship both on and off the stage, said to be the inspiration for the main characters in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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