Celebrating two legendary actresses with hors d’oeuvres, champagne and birthday cake, a wonderful new movie that stars them both and surprise guests: what a delightful afternoon. The glittering and glamorous glow from Celeste Holm and Elizabeth Wilson, who turned 95 and 91 respectively, made the event memorable on Sunday, May 6.
Lyric Hall in the Westville section of New Haven, Connecticut, that began life in 1913 as a vaudeville and silent film house, was decked out in festive finery for the occasion. Joel Vig served as a charming master of ceremonies, with congratulatory letters being read from fans from afar, Broadway tunes crooned by Ms. Holm’s husband Frank Basile, a montage of mementoes from each illustrious show business career prepared by Bernie Kaufman and the unveiling of two oil paintings by Joel Spector.
Ms. Holm’s portrait will hang in the Englewood, New Jersey Actor’s Fund Retirement Home, a cause she has worked tirelessly for over the years. Ms. Wilson’s portrait will hang in the Barter Theatre in Abington, Virginia where she began her career and starred in dozens of productions.
Another highlight of the afternoon’s tribute was the showing of a new film “Broads” introduced by Ray Glanzmann who conceived and produced it. The film features both actresses sharing their reflections on their careers, directors, fellow actors and achievements as well as candid comments from Maureen Stapleton, Kim Hunter, Patricia Neal and Estelle Parsons.
In it we learn such fascinating tidbits as Estelle Parsons’ first role was as a frog even though she aspired to be another Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Wilson’s fairy godmother and mentor was Helen Hayes, Patricia Neal had an affair with Gary Cooper and they all had a thing for Marlon Brando. Mr. Glanzmann plans to expand his movie to include interviews with Shirley Knight, Anne Meara, Frances Sternhagen, Anne Jackson, Olympia Dukakis, Marsha Mason, Lois Smith and Margo Martindale. Bravo to these broads!
Watch for Elizabeth Wilson, who just returned from London where she filmed “Hyde Park on the Hudson,” starring as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother.
After expenses, money raised from this joyous event will be used for the Preservation of Lyric Hall Fund. Lyric Hall will turn 100 next year and these funds will guarantee the loving restoration by its owner John Cavaliere will continue.
As Joel Vig so aptly put it, “today we pay tribute to three grand ladies of the theater, Elizabeth Wilson 91, Celeste Holm 95 and Lyric Hall 99.” Let’s make plans now for their centennial celebrations!