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Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-07-23 00:17:19


Did the box office drop a lot?

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by FishermanBob 2012-07-23 03:00:40


It was only 2 months into the run and it ran for almost another year after Kahn left and Judy Kaye took over so if there was a drop, it would seem they recovered. Forgive me but I have to ask... have you spent the last 34 years wondering about this and finally decided you had to know for sure?

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-07-23 04:03:12


No Fisherman...I read about it in the alternate thread and got curious, you smartass...




Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by allofmylife 2012-07-23 05:06:04


Watch the footage online from the Tonys and you'll see why nobody complained too loudly. What an amazing voice Judy Kaye has.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by allofmylife 2012-07-23 05:06:14


Watch the footage online from the Tonys and you'll see why nobody complained too loudly. What an amazing voice Judy Kaye has.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by After Eight 2012-07-23 06:23:14


^

Yes. And yet, Kahn was far superior in the part.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by South Fl Marc 2012-07-23 07:57:46


I would so disagree - Judy Kaye was brilliant in the part.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GoSmileLaughCryClap 2012-07-23 11:52:09


Judy Kaye was professional in the part, with a big voice, and she was certainly game.

Madeline Kahn not only gave a star performance, she gave a completely original and hilarious one, full of crazy little details and the aura of a genuine unique talent.

She had that Bea Lillie, Judy Holiday, Barbra Streisand, Barbara Harris, Carol Channing thing that doesn't seem to exist any more; an indelible personality on stage. The audience would laugh just anticipating her next bizarre line reading.

And I can attest that the box office took a big hit after Kahn left. I sat in the first row of the mezzanine with some friends one night a month after Kaye took over. We were alone. The show was a passion of mine, and there were holes in the theater at a number of the performances I attended.

I believe attendance did pick up about a third of the way through the run, but it was never SRO after Kahn left.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by newintown 2012-07-23 12:27:34


I'm with GoSmile - Kahn was a genius comic actress; the best Kaye will ever be is moderately amusing and workmanlike. She had a great voice back then, though, it's true.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by brettarnett 2012-07-23 13:05:08


Did Kaye bring anywhere close to the comedy that Kahn brought to the role? Just listening to the cast recording I can tell how nuanced Kahn's performance. Is there any video or any document of Kahn's performance. Was the role written specifically with Kahn in mind? Sorry for the millions of questions. And lastly, is there anyone currently thy could do the role of Lily Garland justice?

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by JoeKv99 2012-07-23 15:42:58


You know, you can be Streisand, Bea Lillie and Sarah Bernhardt combined but if you can't get your ass into the theater to perform every night there isn't much point to it.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by morosco 2012-07-23 15:53:27


Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Bettyboy72 2012-07-23 16:02:21


Why did she leave?

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by morosco 2012-07-23 16:05:16


While we're on the subject check out this high school production of Twentieth Century. This young actress is phenomenal!

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-07-23 18:50:40


I saw both and I thought Kaye was much better in the role, and that included being funnier. I may have seen Kahn on an off night, but she seemed to be working much too hard and seemed rather tense.

My memory is that the box office did not take a huge hit when Kahn left. Shows usually have a somewhat downward trajectory at the box office, and this one did, but I think there was no big drop when Kahn was gone. More harmful was that it lost the Tony to Ain't Misbehavin'. I think it might have helped had the show opened with Kaye, who would have had a good shot at winning the Tony, which was never going to happen for Kahn after she was fired/left.

Honestly, I don't think she was much of a draw. I love her too, but it's not like she was a huge star and it's not as if she got extraordinary reviews that made people feel that it wasn't worth seeing the show without her. In fact, at least a couple of the reviewers who saw the show at critics' performances expressed disappointment with Kahn, saying that she seemed to be walking through the show.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-23 18:59:59


Madeline Kahn was famous for off-nights. I thought she was easily the funniest woman in film at that time and I don't doubt any of you who found her brilliant in the stage show.

But the night I saw it, she slept-walked through the role and the whole "these characters behave like opera characters" concept made no sense. All I saw was a show that Cole Porter should have written with a bad Forrest and Wright score instead.

I saw Judy Kaye many, many times in the part and she was never less than an sheer, larger-than-life joy. What I learned from this is that it's not enough for an actor to be skilled, s/he also needs to give the impression s/he wants to be on that stage. Later, it really helped me in directing actors.

But as for scandal, that seems too strong a word. Kahn was admired and her departure inspired much talk; but there was also a groundswell of support for Kaye as more and more people saw her in the part. Obviously, Kaye's career didn't suffer from comparisons to Kahn.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Dollypop 2012-07-23 19:50:01


I recently had a conversation with someone who was in the original production. He told me Kahn was terribly uneven in her performances. One day she'd be brilliant, other days she'd be lackluster. She was let go because of her erratic performances.

This is pretty much what Gaveston talks about.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-07-23 20:07:24


I guess I thought she was a much bigger deal at the time than she was. I thought this would be the equivalent of Nathan Lane say leaving a show a month in nowadays.

Thanks for the interesting info!

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-23 22:25:01


I recently had a conversation with someone who was in the original production. He told me Kahn was terribly uneven in her performances. One day she'd be brilliant, other days she'd be lackluster. She was let go because of her erratic performances.

This is pretty much what Gaveston talks about.


This has been set out elsewhere, but in the Prince office years later they were still telling the story of the show's opening night, back when most reviewers still attended the opening night. By all accounts, Kahn was brilliant.

Prince's longtime associate producer, Ruth Mitchell, went backstage to congratulate Kahn, who snapped, "Well, I hope you don't expect me to do that eight times a week!"

Unfortunately, since I was a HUGE Madeline Kahn fan, I saw the show the night before that opening. As I said, Kahn acted as if she would have rather been anywhere else.

Similar stories were told about Marlon Brando in STREETCAR. Such performers are better suited to film because the director can keep doing takes until the performer comes "alive" and a brilliant take is recorded. Then they use that one in the final movie.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-23 22:41:40


I guess I thought she was a much bigger deal at the time than she was. I thought this would be the equivalent of Nathan Lane say leaving a show a month in nowadays.

She was a big deal and had at least one Oscar nomination at the time. It was certainly noticed when she left and the reason why was, if not printed, certainly passed by word of mouth. But I think fans such as myself just figured the demands of 8 shows per week in such a large role weren't suited to her talents.

It didn't make her any less brilliant in films such as WHAT'S UP DOC?, BLAZING SADDLES and PAPER MOON.

Although she later had a couple of TV shows, it is my memory that her best work was behind her by the time she did ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Did the episode hurt her? (My guess is no.) Or was she back on Broadway because she was no longer getting interesting film parts? Chicken or egg?

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Owen22 2012-07-23 22:53:02


Man, it was great listening to those two songs again! I feel like such and old fogey actually saying "They don't write them like that anymore..."

It made me all the more excited to see Kristen (this generation's Madeleine) take on the role. I so hope that actually happens...

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by joeybiltmore1 2012-07-23 23:16:14


While her Oscar-nominated roles in PAPER MOON and BLAZING SADDLES are rightly celebrated, I don't think her best work was behind her by the time she did ON THE 20TH CENTURY. Her Tony-winning performance in THE SISTERS ROSENZWEIG in the '90's was both brilliantly hilarious and utterly heartbreaking. She also did solid work in the films CLUE and NIXON among many others. My favorite "later" film of hers, though, is JUDY BERLIN, which would be her last. Kahn gives a performance (in a cast of well-known theatre vets) that is joyous and lonely and ethereal.

I have many fond memories of receiving the 20TH CENTURY record for Christmas and savoring every second of her performance as Lily over and over.

She was a great, unique talent. I miss her.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-07-23 23:54:45


"This has been set out elsewhere, but in the Prince office years later they were still telling the story of the show's opening night, back when most reviewers still attended the opening night. By all accounts, Kahn was brilliant."

By then, the critics were no longer mostly attending opening night. Prince had been one of the first producers to start inviting critics to previews, starting with Zorba. By the time of On the Twentieth Century, it had been standard for a while. For some reason, Richard Eder (in the Times) seems to have attended opening night for this show, but that was unusual.

In the Foster Hirsch book, Prince tells that story as if it had happened to him.

Never heard such stories about Brando in Streetcar, but it was apparently true of him in the only thing he did onstage after Streetcar, which for some reason was a stock tour of Arms and the Man in which he played Sergius, rather than Bluntschli. William Redfield, who played Bluntschli, wrote about it in his terrific book, Letters From an Actor.



Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by henrikegerman 2012-07-24 08:01:09


Gaveston, i trust you are right about Kahn's inconsistency. But I'm shocked that you think the score to On The Twentieth Century is a bad one.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-24 19:02:32


She was a great, unique talent. I miss her.

I agree, joeybiltmore. I didn't see Kahn in ROSENZWEIG, but I'm happy to take your word for it. In terms of film and while the fault may not have been Kahn's, the later work doesn't compare to the earlier for me. (This is not to say I didn't watch every episode of her TV show and the later Bill Cosby show in which she had a supporting role.)

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-24 19:08:10


nobodyhome, I can only tell you what I saw and heard and how the story was told to me. I saw the dull performance at the last preview; if there were critics there, I doubt they were impressed. Perhaps Kahn simply got caught up in the opening night excitement and it had nothing to do with critics.

Yes, I know Prince claims the story. But long before he published that, I heard the same story attributed to Ruth Mitchell by several members of Prince's staff. (My husband worked there.) So I tend to think Prince appropriated the memory and recast himself in a central role. (And for all I know Mitchell may have been delivering a message from Prince, so perhaps he was indeed involved.) In the end, the point was Kahn's response.

That Marlon Brando was sheer genius--but only in one performance per week--has been reported by so many sources, I didn't think it required attribution.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-24 19:18:58


henrik, in addition to my own experience, Kahn's inconsistency has been reported numerous places, including by Prince himself.

But I wasn't clear about the score. Although I wouldn't put it in my Top 20, I love the score and have played the recording hundreds of times. (Even though, frankly, I'm not that fond of Kahn's thin voice, there's no question that she's hilarious.)

The score only works if one gets the opera parody and the reason for it. Otherwise, it's a lot of singing, "Yes, yes, yes! No, no, no!", etc. And to get the parody, the characters of Oscar and Lily have to be of operatic size.

That was clear with Judy Kaye and I wish we had more of her on record. But in the performance I saw with Kahn, her lack of energy and interest so reduced the character that I didn't get the point. It just seemed like a mediocre operetta with a visual design that demanded (and promised) 1930's-style jazz.

So when Prince and others say Kahn was inconsistent, it was more than a matter of her missing a few laughs. In my experience, she rendered the entire style of the show incomprehensible. One could still follow the plot, but the overall concept wasn't apparent. No doubt it was an entirely different show on Kahn's "good days".

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by EricMontreal22 2012-07-24 19:37:01


Apropos of nothing, Kahn singing Glitter and Be Gay is pretty great http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDtwp3cB2yU

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by chrisampm2 2012-07-24 20:05:08


Thanks so much GavestonPS. I've heard about the Kahn firing since I was a kid and this is the first time I understand why her inconsistency was so damaging. Makes perfect sense.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-24 22:01:46


You're welcome, chris. To be perfectly accurate, I don't actually know whether Kahn was fired, quit or left by mutual consent. I'm sure I was told by the same people who were telling the opening night story, but at this point, I don't recall. She was obviously unhappy, so being fired or quitting may have amounted to the same thing.

And just to reiterate, I still think Madeleine Kahn is responsible for at least three of the funniest, yet touching performances in film history. She was quite literally a comic genius.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-07-25 03:07:54


Gaveston, just to clarify: I was not trying to cast doubt on your account of what you saw. I wasn't thrilled myself with the performance I saw Kahn give about a week after the opening (though it didn't seem to me that she was walking through it or lacked energy exactly). I was just pointing out that by 1978, the critics generally attended previews. Indeed, I believe one or two critics even mentioned in their reviews of On the Twentieth Century that they'd seen a preview (and I think those were the critics who had been somewhat disappointed by Kahn and they seemed to be trying to say that perhaps she was just not at her best that night).

And I also don't doubt that it was, in fact, Ruth Mitchell who had that encounter with Kahn. I just wanted to mention for those who might be reading this thread and not know about the situation that Prince had told the story in an interview in which he said he had the conversation with Kahn.

As for Brando, I would appreciate it if you could cite a source or two for Brando walking through all but one or two performances a week because I don't think I've ever read that. I may well be insufficiently knowledgeable about this so I do hope you can help me out by pointing me to a source that I haven't read. Everyone I've ever read or heard speak about the production, speaking of people who actually saw it, raved about him (except, of course, Brooks Atkinson who mostly raved about Tandy but liked Brando a lot also). I don't recall ever hearing people anyone talk about seeing him walking rhrough it or seeming bored. So please be kind and help me out here.

The only person I've read who said something like that was Tandy, but even she just said that he'd be brilliant one night and bored the next, which isn't quite as bad as being bored seven times a week. And she may not have had the best perspective on how he appeared to the audience. Even in the book in which Tandy's quoted about this (When Blanche Met Brando), it sounds like what he was doing may have been intended to provoke her.

The author of that book seems more on Brando's side so he may be slanting it in Brando's direction, but what I get from that part of the book is that Tandy perceived him as bored but he was changing things to keep it alive (and to keep her off her guard), and that drove her crazy because she wanted it to be consistent, and she interpreted his changes as coming from boredom.

Redfield says of his performance in Arms and the Man that "he was brilliant once or twice a week," and makes it clear that in that instance, it was all too clear to the audience that he was bored at most performances.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-25 20:15:41


nobodyhome, I thought you and I were both working to examine a piece of folklore and I took no offense whatsoever at your corrections and additions to my memory. I'm very sorry if my response seemed defensive.

(I think it's likelier the original incident involved Mitchell mostly because folklore tends to grow larger over time, not shrink. Kahn snapping at the famous Hal Prince actually improves the story, so it seems more likely that the truth was Mitchell and the "improvement" was Prince. But that's hardly "scientific" proof. For all I know, both Ruthie and Hal were standing there at the time.)

Re Brando, I'll look, but I think you have your source in Tandy. "Every other night" or "one performance out of eight" are both approximations, I'm sure, as nobody was actually keeping score. But let me see what I can find...


ETA: Here's a VANITY FAIR article where others reminisce about Brando in STREETCAR. (See top of Page 2.) Even Brando complained of his boredom. To be fair, his castmates say the same boredom sometimes led him to find even more interesting choices, so it wasn't always a bad thing.

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2005/03/brando200503



Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-07-26 00:49:04


Oh, good. Glad that you took no offense. Sometimes it's hard to tell these things in online conversation.

I agree that the Kahn "don't expect me to do that eight times a week" incident probably did happen with Mitchell, not Prince.

Thank you for the link to the Vanity Fair piece. Very interesting.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-07-26 00:54:36


maybe Kahn was joking in the 8 shows a week quote...does anyone really bring all the energy to other performances that they do on an Opening? (just a thought...no idea really!)

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by chrisampm2 2012-07-26 01:38:28


The performer's job is to find a consistent level of focus. Now that critics come to ~ a week of performances opening is more like the rest of the whole first month or so of a run.

I have to admit I've started liking shows more when they've settled in. I've rarely felt opening night has been the show at its most effective. My favorite time to see a show - at the one month mark. And the final night of the original cast.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-26 14:55:41


maybe Kahn was joking in the 8 shows a week quote...does anyone really bring all the energy to other performances that they do on an Opening? (just a thought...no idea really!)

I think that's certainly possible. Kahn was a very funny woman. That the story gained such traction, however, suggests others found more truth in it than humor.

***

Absolutely no offense taken, nobodyhome. Thanks again for your contributions.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-07-27 01:44:53


How was Madeline in Boom Boom Room? That only ran a month....and then was done a year later off-Broadway. Odd.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-27 19:57:04


I don't know, LeadingPlayer. Nothing I ever read or heard about Kahn in TWENTIETH CENTURY ever referred to the earlier play or there being any problems with Kahn in it. Didn't she attract Hollywood's attention pretty soon after the earlier play? She must have been sensational!

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by chrisampm2 2012-07-27 21:20:19


If memory serves, Kenneth Turan's book on the history of The Public cites lots of problems with In the Boom Boom Room and Kahn's performance, along with most other elements, was not heralded.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-27 22:22:10


I stand corrected then. Thank you, chris.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-07-30 03:10:24


Boom Boom Room was a limited engagement, the first production of Papp's short-lived tenure at Lincoln Center. The production did have a lot of problems, with Papp firing director Julie Bovasso, and Julie Newmar being fired from the cast.

I was told by someone who's working on a bio of Kahn that she regarded it as the best work of her career, despite all the problems with the production (which are recounted, as mentioned by chrisampm2, in excruciating detail in Kenneth Turan's Free for All).

I saw it, and I do have some memories of it. I particularly remember Peter Bartlett and Mary Woronov (who replaced Newmar) being terrific, and there being one fascinating scene with Charlotte Rae, who otherwise seemed totally out of place and lost. And that Kahn did try very hard to not be funny.

Paper Moon opened in May 1973. Boom Boom Room opened in November 1973, and the acclaim she received for the film probably was part of the reason why she was cast (over Julie Bovasso's objections). And Blazing Saddles would already have been shot by the time Boom Boom Room started rehearsals.

The reason the play came back at the Public the following year was to give it another chance in a new production since there was little question that the first one had been botched.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-30 17:37:40


And Kahn had done the WHAT'S UP DOC? film in 1972. I've always thought that was her funniest role, PAPER MOON her most touching.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-07-31 01:34:01


Thanks. I thought What's Up, Doc? was her first major film appearance, but for some reason I didn't see it on imdb when I looked (though it's right there).

Of course, before that was De Düva.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-07-31 03:27:51


^^^A film I've never heard of. WTF!

And it's available on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X2QmLWWxq4


Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by morosco 2012-07-31 09:40:55


Who else but Madeline could get away with the Young Frankenstein line, "See? Did you see? I put a special hamper in the bathroom just for your shirts. And the other one is just for socks and poopoo undies".

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by morosco 2012-10-09 18:46:07


Judy Kaye sings

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-09 19:10:07


Thank you for that, morosco! I don't know whether it was her age, the key, the piano or the TV environment, but I'm not sure that clip fully does her justice.

I would encourage anyone to get one of Judy Kaye's solo CDs. She sings a variety of songs and her tone is much richer and not so shrill.

Poor show, though, if "Never" is what they had for marketing purposes! I'm not knocking the song in the show, I just don't think it's strong seller as a stand-alone number.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by sondheimfan2 2012-10-09 20:38:26


Watched the video: Kaye sounds great, but I find nothing comedic about her approach.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-10 08:27:43


That isn't how she played the song in character in the show.

She's dressed as herself, singing into a hand-mike and without the other two characters who sing the trio in the show. I still find her dryly amusing, but if she had played the over-the-top Lily Garland in that television context, she would have been funny--but not in the good way.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Kad 2012-10-10 11:21:27


The thing is, I don't think the show really has songs that can work out of the context of the show, which is why you rarely see them performed in concerts, etc. I think numbers like "Veronique", "Babbette", and "The Legacy" are really fantastic solos... but outside of an understanding of the show, they're confusing.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-10 18:47:07


I agree, Kad. That's what I meant to say above, but I see now my post reads as if I were criticizing whoever chose "Never" for that appearance, rather than acknowledging the fact that none of the songs really work outside of the plot.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by Nick Murphy 2012-10-10 20:48:53


It wasn't a big deal. She wasn't very good in the role and there was some talk of replacing her during previews with Tammy Grimes. When she left the big story was Judy Kaye and the show never looked back.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-10 21:50:30


In fairness, Nick, it was a big deal to those of us who idolized Madeline Kahn and got a lackluster performance in return.

But you're right that Judy Kaye made me forget that disappointment entirely. I must have seen her 10 times and took everyone in my family.

And I remained a fan of Kahn on film and TV until her untimely death.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by morosco 2012-10-10 22:33:32


Judy Kaye from a mini tour of the show in 1986 or 1987.

Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by morosco 2012-10-10 22:34:21


Was it a big scandal when Madeline Kahn left 20th Century?
Posted by morosco 2012-10-10 22:44:43