I just saw Angela Lansbury play Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at the Ahamanson, in downtown Los Angeles. She was terrific, the play was marvelous. It reminded my how much I love Noel Coward.
The play is witty and frothy and delightful. It tells a tale of haunting and the return of the dead as if it were a drawing room comedy. The years have not dimmed its humor. It zips along like a lively party and concludes well before its welcome has runs out. Coward supposedly wrote it in six days, on a holiday in Wales. If only I could have six days like that!
I’ve been reading about old productions. The premiere in London stared Cecil Parker and Margaret Rutherford. Parker was so memorable in THE LADY VANISHES and THE LADYKILLERS. Rutherford was the ultimate Madame Arcati. The part was written for her and she’s owned ever since.
The Broadway production was with Clifton Webb and Mildred Natwick. Webb is the epitome of the supercilious Noel Coward type, very witty, very gay. In both meanings of the word.
Of course, there was the movie with Rex Harrison and Rutherford. Harrison was a bit more of the rough, hard drinking type than the usual ‘Charles.’ He gives the piece a bit more sex than it usually has.
A 1956 television production was directed by Coward with himself playing the lead and Lauren Bacall and Claudette Colbert playing his two wives, with Mildred Natwick repeating as Madame Arcati. I would give my eye-teeth to see that.
In the recent production, Lansbury was wonderful as Arcati . With her eccentric dancing and high energy, she steals every scene. It’s hard to believe she’s going to be 90 in October.
The spirit still moves me!