Elaine Stritch, the Broadway legend who was equally famous for her seven decade career as for her famously spikey wit, has died at the age of 89. The actress passed away at her home in Michigan.
Born in 1925, the eccentric and comically brilliant actress studied drama at the New School in New York City before making her Broadway debut in 1948. It was the start of a long and illustrious career that saw her conquer the worlds of stage – both in New York and London – television, radio and film.
Broadway highlights included the actress’ work with Stephen Sondheim, including the 1970 production of Company in which Stritch famously originated the role of Joanne on Broadway and in the subsequent West End premiere in 1972.
It was in London during this time that she met her late husband John Bay, the American actor and playwright. The pair married in 1973 and lived at the Savoy Hotel.
Her time in the capital saw her lead stage productions including Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady and Tennessee Williams’ Small Craft Warnings, while on screen she came to prominence with British audiences for her starring role in ITV’s long-running sitcom Two’s Company.
Stritch, whose extensive screen roles also included a leading role in Woody Allen’s 1987 film September, went back to live in the US following Bay’s death in 1982. She most recently returned to the city she called home for 13 years in 2002 with the West End transfer of her Tony Award-winning one-woman show Elaine Stritch At Liberty. The acclaimed production, which offered audiences an insight into her dramatic life, her struggle with alcoholism and her fascinating career, played at the Old Vic and earned her an Olivier Award nomination.
Stritch’s most recent stage appearance came at the age of 86 in July 2010 when the actress took over the role of Madame Armfeldt from Angela Lansbury in the Broadway revival of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. However fans could see the actress perform cabaret at New York’s Carlyle Hotel, where she was a resident performer, up until last year.
Seemingly summing up today’s many tributes to the actress, Alec Baldwin, who the actress starred opposite in Tina Fey’s much-loved comedy series 30 Rock as Baldwin’s fabulously cantankerous on screen mother Colleen, wrote on Twitter: “A woman that I loved and admired, and a true one in a million, has gone to her rest… I’m sure that even God is a bit nervous right now.”
The Broadway theatre community will mark Stritch’s passing by dimming the marquees of all its theatres for one minute tonight at 19:45.