Lane Bradbury: A Life of Meaning and Purpose – Page 3


Last Update: 2008
Go to Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Credits

Page 3 of 6

Being at The Actor’s Studio was a godsend. You could go and work on different scenes and experience different characters and I learned on my feet. I worked with some incredible people including Lee Strasberg, and it really was an amazing and creative time in my life.

The first TV show I ever did was The Outcasts of Poker Flat in 1958. I enjoyed that a lot because I loved working with [my co-star] Larry Hagman. He played my fiance and watching him work on the show was a magical experience. It was live TV so it was like being on stage. The cast consisted of George C. Scott, Ruth White and Janet Ward, Larry Hagman, and me. We rehearsed over a Jewish delicatessen and it was so much fun. But then when it came time to shoot, I froze! I thought, ‘Oh my God! I’m doing this before millions of people and millions of people are going to see this!’ I clutched, you know, I clutched, and I can remember thinking ‘I can’t do this!’ But then, from off camera before my entrance, I started watching Larry’s scene. I was watching him on the monitor. He looked so handsome and capable, I just fell in love with him. You know, like you fall in love with someone in a movie. I thought to myself, ‘Lane, you get to work with him!You get to love him. Now go out there and do it.’ That took all the fear away. I just breezed through the rest of the performance. That was my entrance into the world of television.

My first Broadway play in 1959 was J.B. by Archibald MacLeish, which was based on The Book of Job. I got the part because the director, Elia Kazan, had seen me do several scenes at the Studio and liked my work. He called me in and had me read for the part of Jolly Adams. It was a little seven-line part…a young girl with a bunch of women, all of whom had survived a nuclear blast. Elia Kazan liked my reading and gave me the part. Even though I only had seven lines, I used them to help me hone my craft as an actress. During the rehearsals for the play I heard that my coming out ball was scheduled back home. My agent asked Kazan if I could be excused to leave the Friday after rehearsal and go and make my debut at the Driving Club in Atlanta on Saturday night and come back on Sunday to be ready to rehearse on Monday. I’d already had my dress made—it had an upside down rose on it and it was lovely. I think my wanting to make my debut in Atlanta must have tickled Kazan as he said to me, ‘I’ll let you go if you would bring me back a picture of your debut.’ Of course that was easy enough so that’s what I did! (laughs)

While I was still in J.B., I auditioned for Gypsy. My audition consisted of doing a song from Can-Can, titled I’m A Maiden Typical of France. I had done it once back in Atlanta and it was cute and very animated. While I thought I did a pretty good job, I didn’t get the part. After they were in rehearsal, my agent called me and said ‘Lane, they are getting ready to fire the girl who is playing Dainty June and they want you to go to the next dress rehearsal.’ I went to the dress rehearsal and I can remember feeling really upset that this girl that I was watching was probably losing her job.After the dress rehearsal I was told they had decided to fire her and hire me. Over the next three days I had to learn three songs and two dances…as well as how to twirl a baton and a lot of dialogue. They were already out of town in Philadelphia so they sent someone to rehearse with me at a studio in New York as twirling a baton is not easy! Not only that, but I had to twirl while going slowly into a split. A couple of batons wound up going out the studio window because I’d never done that before in my life! I had always thought I was a classic dancer, you know, and that people who twirled batons were kind of cheap white trash, so here I was twirling batons, trying to learn something that I always thought was cheap! (laughs) Anyway, I learned what I needed for the role and the first night they kind of just pushed me out on stage. I don’t remember anything about that first night, I just remember people yanking clothes off of me and yanking other stuff on me and shoving me toward the stage entrance and I went out and did the best job I could.

I think there was a lot of resentment towards me from some of the cast of Gypsy because they really loved the girl I had replaced. I remember that Ethel Merman was not supportive at all. Nor was she fun to work with. She had her performance all mapped out and it never changed. She would never look you in the eyes…she only looked at your forehead. I guess that was so if you did something different, her performance wouldn’t be effected by it. It was so totally the opposite of what I was learning at the Actor’s Studio and the way that I worked naturally. However, when Merman did the song Rose’s Turn at the end of the show I used to watch her from the wings because she always got tears in her eyes. That was fascinating to me.

The only people that were supportive in Gypsy were Jack Klugman and Sandra Church. I felt their support from the very start. From what I understand the producers had replaced the other girl with me because my voice was more of a belting voice, like Merman’s. I was like a child version of Merman, you know, my voice was really big and brash.

I had absolutely worshiped Jerome Robbins, the choreographer on the show. But then when we got into rehearsal, I found him to be really, really frightening. Because I went into Gypsy so fast, I was constantly trying to catch up. In one scene I was supposed to move this little teapot so that Ethel Merman could sweep the flat silver on the table into her purse without being caught stealing. But, in order to make a clean sweep, I had to move the teapot to another part of the table. It was simple, really, but I forgot to do it. So I got a note about it and then the next night I forgot to remove it again. I got another note and I thought, ‘How do I remember to do this?’ Well, since I was a fledgling member of The Actor’s Studio and had learned a lot about sense memory, I said, ‘Okay, before I go on stage I’ll do sense memory about really needing tea and then I’ll remember to pick up the teapot and pour myself a little bit of tea.’ But I got so involved with doing the sense memory, I again forgot to remove the teapot! (laughs) And I got another note. After the third or fourth time of doing this, there was an announcement one day during rehearsal that ‘There will be a teapot rehearsal for Lane Bradbury in the lobby at 4:00.’ So at 4:00 I went out to the lobby and the stage manager and I worked on the scene. He would say the line and I would move the teapot to the side and then he would put it back again. Then he would say the line again and I would move the teapot to the side and this went on for over half an hour. It was like writing ‘I will have better self control’ 400 times on the blackboard. So then when I went on stage I was thinking to myself, ‘Remember to remove the teapot, remember to remove the teapot.’ Well, I was concentrating so much on remembering to remove the teapot, I forgot to remove it again. I came off stage and I was going up to my dressing room and Jerome Robbins was standing at the top of the stairs, waiting for me. He just looked at me and screamed, ‘You fucking little bitch!’ I immediately knew what I had not done…removed the teapot. So the next night I did the performance, I remembered to remove the teapot but when I went to get my batons from the back of the end of the train, they were gone. After I got off stage, I went to the stage manager and asked, ‘What happened to my batons? They’re not there.’ Jerome Robbins was standing behind the stage manager. He said, ‘I took your batons so you would remember to remove the fucking teapot!’ Oh, it was a nightmare. A total nightmare. I think I got so frightened of him after that that I just went into a state of paranoia. I was so afraid of him that if I knew he was in the theater watching me I would mess up. Every time. I was terrified of him. It was a humiliating experience. On opening night my agent gave me a teapot. A little golden teapot for my charm bracelet. (laughs) That story is in a couple of books about Robbins and every bit of it is true!

Go to page 4 of 6

Go to Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Credits

Please leave a comment below. or visit my retired guestbook, to see previous comments.

Leave Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.