Sunday, September 24, 2017

Louis Edmonds in "The Choice is Murder," 1964

Louis Edmonds would have been 94 years old today. At this point, I'm willing to accept that the well has been pumped dry in regards to his complex tenure on DARK SHADOWS. When I went spelunking for obscure media about the actor, it was with little anticipation of finding anything new related to the series. My goal was to find something interesting about his work on ALL MY CHILDREN, but the best piece -- a newspaper editorial slamming the show's producers for its failure to recognize Edmonds' death in 2001 -- seemed a bit dark for the occasion.

Instead, let's look back on something so ephemeral that its very existence is even dubious: 1964's "The Choice is Murder." The play had a two-week run in July that year at Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, with hopes that it would make the leap to Broadway later that year (though I could find no evidence this actually happened.)

"I had an idea for the perfect murder and originally planned to build the whole play around it," author Denis Heber told The Philadelphia Inquirer shortly before the play's debut. (Note: Copyright information on the play credits the author as Denis Heber Caslon.) "But the script has undergone such radical revisions since then that now my idea only occupies the first act."

The story suggests that Edmonds was already in danger of being typecast. The play's principals are once-wealthy married couple brought low by the husband's many gambling debts. "The wife wants to get rid of him before all the money runs out," Heber explained in 1964.

The play is set in Surrey, England, and had at least one honest-to-god British actor in the cast: Paddi Edwards played the sinister spouse. While the name might not sound familiar, you've absolutely heard her voice: She provided the voices of Flotsam and Jetsam in Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID and Gozer in GHOSTBUSTERS. The play's third lead, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, was among the stars of William Blinn's THE ROOKIES from 1972-1976, and had a wildly varied theatrical career that includes IN COLD BLOOD, ENSIGN PULVER and THE VALACHI PAPERS.

Located in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Bucks County Playhouse opened its doors in 1939 and eventually became a jumping-off point for both actors and entire productions. Bela Lugosi starred in a production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" there in 1947 .Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" had its premiere at the theater in 1963, starring Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. In 1964, Rob Reiner completed an apprenticeship at the Bucks County Playhouse, not only working on "The Choice is Murder," but also "Sunday In New York" (starring Alan Alda), and "Broadway" (with Merv Griffin). At the moment, George Wendt is appearing there as J. Edgar Hoover in ROCK AND ROLL MAN: THE ALAN FREED STORY.

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