Stanley Anderson, 1939-2018
Many of the obituaries announcing the death of actor Stanley Anderson, who succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 77 on June 24, referenced him most often for his roles as a general in “Spiderman” and a judge on “Seinfeld.”
This is a fate that awaits many actors noted for their serious work on stage, be it Broadway or regional theater. The late and brilliant queen of O’Neill roles Colleen Dewhurst passed with headlines noting: “Murphy Brown’s Mother Dies.”
In Washington, though, Anderson, who worked in film and television long, prolifically and hard, will always be remembered for his many roles in the 20-some years he worked as a standout at Arena Stage, where he made his debut in the lead role of Randle Patrick McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” (Jack Nicholson won an Oscar in the movie version.)
Until he moved on in the early 1990s to screen work, he had dazzled audiences with a kind of square-jawed, intense, cragged persona that worked in classics, comedy (a Helen Hayes award for “The Piggy Bank”) and contemporary plays (“Execution of Justice”).
Most memorable was his portrayal of an angry policeman in Arthur Miller’s often-staged “The Price,” in which he shared the stage with Arena stalwart Robert Prosky. Prosky had also gone on to more financially rewarding screen work, including playing a priest in “Rudy” and a genial, Dracula-dressed, late-night horror movie host in a “Gremlins” movie.
The two were friends and peers, but also shared an honesty in the work, in whatever genre or medium. Anderson played a president several times, but also a scheming villain in “The Pelican Brief,” which seemed to employ an inordinate number of local actors, including Franchelle Stewart Dorn, the one-of-a-kind Richard Bauer and Tom Quinn as a gruff, grieving father. In an episode of “Law and Order,” Anderson, playing a high-living, charismatic novelist suspected of murder, seemed to catch a rousing reflection of the iconoclastic Norman Mailer.
With all of his performances, Anderson was always in the arena of high standards and excellence, but especially so at Arena Stage.
Liliane Montevecchi, 1932-2018
Liliane Montevecchi was an actress, a singer (cabaret and more) and a dancer, a classical ballerina, catching most of the important bases on the paths of the performing arts.
As a star, Montevecchi, who died on June 29 at the age of 85, flamed brightly early and late, never dimming but never becoming a supernova either. Her career touched the parts of the performing arts that we approach with a certain amount of awe. It’s where the public meets the highest rungs of artistic ambition — most of the time — where sophistry and sophistication move beautifully and smoothly together and apart.
After all, she took her first dance classes at age 8 with Pierre Duprez, was a prima ballerina at the Paris Opera, starred on the stage of the Opera Comique, glided on the stage of the Champs-Élysées. As a dancer, she was in a different atmosphere. She danced at the coronation of Rainier III, prince of Monaco, in 1949, and was in films like “The Glass Slipper” and “Daddy Long Legs,” which starred Leslie Caron. Also on the list are stints with Jerry Lewis (“The Sad Sack”), “King Creole” (Elvis) and “The Young Lions,” opposite Marlon Brando.
She worked in live television shows like “Playhouse 90,” after which came stints with the Follies Bergère in Las Vegas and Paris. To cap things off, there was her memorable Broadway turns in “Nine” with Raul Julia and in a musical version of “Grand Hotel,” playing the fading ballerina originated by Greta Garbo, of course. That role was a ballerina named Grushinskaya.
She was French and Italian, but belonged in every step, song and role, to pretty much the whole world, and to all of us.