Andrea King (Georgette) as Nancy
in “Angel Street” (1942).
(IN ASSOCIATION WITH ALEXANDER H. COHEN)
by PATRICK HAMILTON
There are several indelible memories Andrea has about touring in the hit play “Angel Street.” First, it was smack in the middle of World War II, and since the company and its scenery toured by train, she remembers waiting in several rain-soaked stations while the Armed Forces troop trains came through. In one particularly memorable performance, she recalls that their scenery was held up so long it never arrived at all. But the show went on!
“We were forced to pretend to run up and down our magnificent staircase! It was dreadful, but we managed,” says Andrea with a laugh. “Thank God the audience had enough imagination to enjoy the show in spite of our mishap.”
And during one devastating performance at the Plymouth Theatre in Boston, with less than 15 minutes remaining before the final curtain, they had to stop the show entirely. Andrea’s sister Anne was visiting and witnessed the whole thing from the wings. The theatre had been engulfed by the terrifying sounds of sirens. Aside from the fact that the actors could no longer be heard, everyone was nervous and excited beyond distraction. The stage manager made a hasty announcement to the audience that the nearby Cocoanut Grove night club was on fire. Andrea and the rest of the cast were stunned. They were all due at the Grove for a war bond fund-raiser just as soon as the final curtain fell. The stage manager then asked everyone to evacuate the theatre. The sad news soon came that over 600 people at the Grove had been trapped inside and most perished in the fire. It was one of our nation’s single largest disasters to date. Andrea’s mother Belle tried for 24 hours to get through by telephone. The jammed lines prevented her from finding out if her daughters were alive. It took quite an effort to calm her down once she got through.
The cast of the psychological thriller “Angel Street” included Lynn Phillips in a role that Ingrid Bergman won a Best Actress Academy Award for in 1944, when the play was re-titled “Gaslight” for MGM. Lynn was a seasoned Broadway actress, having played the young brat Mary Tilford in Lillian Hellman’s controversial drama “The Children’s Hour,” as well as the rebellious daughter Alexandra Giddens in Ms. Hellman’s biggest Broadway hit, “The Little Foxes.” Also featured in this company was veteran character actor Ernest Cossart, who had appeared in many films, most notably as Ginger Rogers’ father in her then-recent Oscar-winner, “Kitty Foyle.”