First Lady of Naturalism?

Turns out that years before Brando blurted, “Stella!” an actress named Laurette Taylor was stunning audiences with her naturalistic style. People were so amazed by her honest performances that they thought she must be “someone off the street – not an actor.” Over the weekend I watched Rick McKay’s The Golden Age of Broadway on PBS, and at least a dozen of the interviewed legends of the Great White Way mentioned Taylor as one of the most influential and inspiring performers they had ever seen. Most of them referred specifically to her performance of Amanda in the original version of The Glass Menagerie. McKay backs up the praise with an extremely rare screen test that he unearthed in his research for the film. It’s apparently the only existing footage of Taylor speaking, (though she also perforemd in a few silent movies), and let’s just say that Streep and Dench ain’t got nothing on this chick from the turn of the last centry. During the pledge drives, McKay spoke passionately about his desire to preserve the legacy of stage performers who’s ephemeral work disappears generation by generation, replaced in our collective cultural memory by movies. I thought that was a swell idea. Cheers, Ms. Taylor – you too, Liz.