Elliot Martin, Broadway Producer of Shows Starring Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, Al Pacino and More, Dies at 93
Elliot Martin, renowned Broadway producer and Tony Award winner passed away peacefully on Sunday, May 21st, in Connecticut, surrounded by his family. He was 93.
MR. Martin's prolific career spanned 70 years, beginning as a performer, moving into stage management and then producing. He is considered by many to be one of the last great, independent gentleman producers known for nurturing talent, fostering relationships and patrician good looks.
Born in Denver, Colorado February 25, 1924, Martin spent his teenage summers as a cowboy in the mountains, and at age 17 had a radio program in Denver, playing his guitar and singing cowboy songs. He attended Denver University from 1943-1946 studying under the renowned Dr. Campton Bell. In 1946, with the war over, recognizing Martin's passion for the theatre, Dr. Bell, urged him to get to New York without delay. He did so, and in 1947 was cast in the original London production of "Oklahoma".
Also in the cast was his future wife, Marjorie Cuesta Austin. They were married for 65 years until her death in 2014. An elegant couple, they built a life together raising a family in Westport Connecticut and Manhattan. Marjorie became the casting director for the majority of Martin's productions.
Following the extraordinary success of "Oklahoma" in post war London, Martin returned to New York in 1949 and was cast in his only Broadway show as a performer, "Texas Li'l Darlin' ". He and Marjorie followed that with the national tour of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Allegro".
In the early 50's, Martin began working as production manager for Lawrence Langner at the Westport Country Playhouse. (Langner, as head of the Theatre Guild, had produced both "Oklahoma" and "Allegro" and also owned and operated the Westport Country Playhouse.) The Martin family moved to Westport, where they remained active members of the community for over 50 years.
Martin began managing the Playhouse in the summers and stage managing on Broadway in the winter months. He stage-managed over 15 shows on Broadway including "The Girl on the Via Flaminia" with Jennifer Jones, "a Majority of One" with Gertrude Berg and Sir Cedric Hardwicke and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" with Tammy Grimes.
Martin felt the high point of this period of his career was as production stage manager on the original Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night" staring Florence Eldridge, Fredric March and Jason Robards, and directed by José Quintero. Martin went on to be the preeminent producer of Eugene O'Neill, often working with Quintero and Robards.
During this period Martin began packaging star-driven productions for the straw-hat circuit, sending shows to the premier summer theatres in the Northeast. Between stage managing in the winter and packaging tours in the summer, Martin learned the ins and outs of production, audiences, and most importantly the handling of stars, skills which stood him in good stead as a producer.
While looking for scripts to package for summer stock, Martin came across a comedy which had been turned down by many producers called "Cradle and All" by Sumner Arthur Long. Martin found it promising and arranged a tour staring Paul Ford and Maureen O'Sullivan. He landed the great director and play doctor, George Abbott, to direct. The name was changed to "Never Too Late", and the show opened on Broadway in 1962, running for more than 1,000 performances. It closed on Broadway in late 1965 following a successful production in London.
The years that followed established Martin as a prominent, independent lead producer with "Nobody Loves an Albatross" starring Robert Preston, and the star-studded "Dinner at Eight" directed by Tyrone Guthrie.
Although maintaining his offices in New York, Martin stayed 3 seasons, offering many original productions. Martin opened the Ahmanson's first season with the American premier of O'Neill's "More Stately Mansions" staring Ingrid Bergman and Colleen Dewhurst and directed by José Quintero, which he later moved to Broadway. During his years at the Center Theatre Group, Martin helped establish Los Angeles as a vibrant, innovative theatrical hub.
Retuning full time to New York, Martin produced several landmark productions including in 1973-74, the legendary production of O' Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten " with Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst, directed by José Quintero. Martin received a Special Tony award that year for "distinguished achievement in the Broadway Theatre". During the 70's Martin also producEd O'Neill's "A Touch of a Poet", again directed by Quintero starring Jason Robards and Geraldine Fitzgerald.
Martin went on to produce "Moon" two more times, in 2000 with Gabriel Byrne, Roy Dotrice and Cherry Jones, directed by Daniel Sullivan; and again in 2007 with Kevin Spacey and Eve Best, directed by Howard Davies.
Over the years, Martin produced 4 plays with Rex Harrison, who became a close personal friend: Pirandello's "Emperor Henry IV", William Douglas Hume's "Kingfisher" with George Rose and Claudette Colbert, Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra" with Elizabeth Ashley and Somerset Maugham's "The Circle" with Glynis Johns and Stewart Granger.
Martin helped nurture and develop many playwrights, presenting many original works on Broadway, including "Dirty Linen and New-Found land," by Tom Stoppard; "The Wake of Jamie Foster" by Beth Henley; "Angels Fall" by Lanford Wilson; "Shadowlands" by William Nicholson; "When You Comin' Back Red Ryder" by Mark Medoff; "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" by August Wilson; Tennessee William's last play, "Clothes for a Summer Hotel"; and the original Broadway production of David Mamet's seminal work, "Glengarry, Glen Ross".
Martin produced many revivals, including "Of Mice and Men" with James Earl Jones and Kevin Conway; "Arsenic and Old Lace" with Jean Stapleton and Tony Roberts; "I'm Not Rappaport" with Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen; " She Loves Me" with Boyd Gaines and Judy Kahn; and the highly successful revival of David Mamet's "American Buffalo" with Al Pacino both off and on Broadway.
Martin's last production was in 2012. Fittingly, it was O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night" staring Laurie Metcalf and David Suchet, produced in London, where Martin had started his career. It won the "Olivier" award in 2013 for best revival.
Martin received many honors and awards through his long career, including induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2011. He was active on many boards and committees. He was a lifetime member of The Players Club and the first president of the Players Foundation for Theatre Education. He was a 40 year member of the New York Athletic Club (serving as the president of their Theater club for 15 years) as well as a 55 year member of the Broadway League. Martin was an active and beloved member of Marble Collegiate Church for over 50 years.
Martin is survived by his sister, Lois Dunbar, his son Richard Martin, his daughter Linda Martin Giannini, three grandsons, Martin, Alexander and Charles Giannini and a great granddaughter, Luisa Giannini.
A memorial service will be held at Marble Collegiate Church, Monday, June 26th, at 3pm.