Memorial Service for Actor Barnard Hughes to be Held 12/12

By: Nov. 20, 2006
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A memorial service for Tony Award-winning actor Barnard Hughes will be held on Tuesday, December 12th at 2pm at the Walter Kerr Theatre (219 West 48th Street).  In 2000, at the age of 85, Hughes gave his last Broadway performance at the Walter Kerr Theatre appearing with his wife Helen Stenborg in Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings.  Hughes died at the age of 90 on July 11, 2006 at New York Presbyterian Hospital after a brief illness.


Sam Waterston, Brian Dennehy, Jefferson Mays, Elizabeth Wilson, Lauren Bacall, Alec Baldwin, Bernard Gersten, Joe Dowling, Melvin Bernhardt, Lynne Meadow and Hughes' son, director Doug Hughes are all expected to speak about their memories of the acclaimed actor.  Additional speakers will be announced shortly.  Christine Ebersole, James Naughton and pianist Paul Sullivan will be performing at the memorial.


There will be a limited number of seats made available to the general public for the memorial.   General seating will take place on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the memorial.


Barnard Hughes was born in Bedford Hills, NY, on July 16, 1915, the son of Owen and Madge Hughes.  He held jobs as a dock checker in New York harbor, a Macy's salesman and a Wall Street copyreader before auditioning for the stage on a dare from a friend.   His career, which began in 1934 with one line in the Shakespeare Fellowship Repertory Company production of The Taming of the Shrew, spanned seven decades and over 400 roles on Broadway, and in television and films, appearing opposite such varied stars as Richard Burton, Jason Robards, Robert Preston, George C. Scott, Alfred Drake, Lillian Gish, Christopher Plummer, Lauren Bacall, Alec Baldwin, Nicol Williamson, Bill Murray, Glenn Close, Kiefer Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, Jon Voight, Vanessa Redgrave, Rosemary Harris, Walter Matthau and Whoopi Goldberg.


Hughes made his Broadway debut in 1935 in Herself Mrs. Patrick Crowley.  Until 1942 he toured the United States performing in stock theatrical shows. In 1945, he resumed his stage career after serving in the Army during World War II.   While performing in a veteran's hospital show, he met actress Helen Stenborg, his wife of 56 years, whom he married in 1950. 


He is best remembered for his signature performance as a curmudgeonly father haunting the memory of his playwright son in Hugh Leonard's 1978 Tony Award-winning play, Da.  Hughes won a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his performance, and later recreated the role in the 1988 screen version. 


Reviewing his performance in New York Magazine, critic John Simon wrote the following: "Barnard Hughes, as the eponymous Da, gives one of the great performances of this or any year.  Always a solid and likable actor, Hughes here ascends to the rank of master.  There is no nuance too subtle for him to convey, never thickening its delicacy; no emotion too primal for him to individualize, never losing its searing simplicity.  Put this right alongside the achievements of the Gielguds, Oliviers and Richardsons, or of the Irish stars of the Abbey and Gate in their golden days."


He also received a Tony nomination in 1973 for his performance as Dogberry in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Much Ado About Nothing.


His major Broadway credits included Advise and Consent, Nobody Loves an Albatross, Hamlet, How Now Dow Jones, Uncle Vanya, The Good Doctor, Angels Fall, End of the World, The Iceman Cometh and Prelude to a Kiss.  In 1989, he performed the role of Grandpa in the Abbey Theatre of Dublin's production of You Can't Take It with You.  He returned to Dublin in 1991 to perform Da in that city's Olympia Theatre.  In 2000, he and Stenborg received a Drama Desk Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 1995, he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.


His film credits include Hamlet with Richard Burton, Midnight Cowboy, The Hospital, Cold Turkey, Where's Poppa?, First Monday in October, Oh, God!, Tron, Maxie, The Lost Boys, Doc Hollywood, Sister Act 2 and Cradle Will Rock.


His many television credits included "Playhouse 90," "Kraft Theatre," "Armstrong Circle Theatre," "The Guiding Light," and "As the World Turns."  He starred in the television series "Doc," "Mr. Merlin" and "The Cavanaughs," and played a recurring role on the series "Blossom".  His television career also included guest star roles on "All in the Family," "The Bob Newhart Show" and his 1977 Emmy Award-winning performance on "Lou Grant". 


He served for over a decade as President of the Episcopal Actors' Guild and for many years on the council of The Actors' Fund. 


In 1992, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Manhattan College, the school he'd dropped out of to become an actor. 


His last public appearance was on June 1, 2006 at the Shubert Theatre, where in celebration of 60 years of the Tony Awards, he was photographed with 110 Best Actor and Best Actress Tony Award winners, including Natasha Richardson, Brian Dennehy, Glenn Close, Philip Bosco, Marian Seldes, Cherry Jones, Christine Ebersole and Ralph Fiennes.