E va
L e
G allienne


The Reigning Queen of Broadway

New York Time's critic Walter Kerr called Eva the epitome of stardom. Time Mag Cover In 1977 President Gerald Ford hailed her "excellence of achievement," and in 1986 President Ronald Reagan awarded her the National Medal of the Arts. She was selected by nationally known director Lee Strasberg as a "vivid example of what American actors are capable of." She was a darling of the media, providing interviews about her beauty secrets, advertising products, modeling the latest fashions and there was even a doll of her character in Liliom sold in NY stores.

The male-dominated Broadway establishment undoubtedly viewed LeG as a threat to their male superiority. Everyone knew this 27 year old actress was no clinging vine they could order around like a silly chorus girl. She had challenged authors, producers, and agents and had even been fired for standing up to a director. She knew her career was in jeopardy. Maybe she needed to strike out on her own.


So, in 1926 she established our country's first classical repertory theatre (1926-1935) : The Civic Repertory Theatre. She insisted in presenting the classics at one-third the Broadway ticket price and to offer them in repertory. She demanded loyalty. All actors had to agree to be ready to present any of the plays in their repertory in a 24 hour notice. Whenever she learned actors were even considering joining different companies, she would fire them on the spot.


As Juliet
As Juliet, 1930

Eva: The Consummate Pro

On the opening night of Romeo and Juliet, the routine took a turn.

Eva always prided herself with strict discipline backstage, there was no time for carelessness. She had asked her Romeo, Richard Waring, to use a special little dagger for the final tomb scene. Because it had a tendency to slip out of his costume, he had instructed the stage manager to place it on his funeral bier each night. Since nothing had ever gone amiss during rehearsals, Eva expected this performance to be no different. On this particular evening, however, the stage manager forgot.

When Eva reached for the dagger, there was none to be found. She paused momentarily and reached -- above, below, and around. Still nothing. Waring was supposed to be dead, so he was of little help. Besides, his eyes were closed, and he did not know what was going on, only that there was an extraordinarily long, deadly long, pause. Eva knew she must somehow find a way to kill herself, and quickly. She climbed slowly off the bier and stumbled over to Paris's body on the floor. She ran her hands frantically over his body, but discovered that in this scene he did not carry a dagger.

By this time Eva was wild. How would she ever end the play! Desperate, she finally grabbed Paris's sword, crawled back on the bier, recited her dying line, "O happy dagger, This is thy sheath! There rust, and let me die," and dropped down on the sword with a thud. By the time the curtain dropped, she was in a rage. So much for routine performances!

Still, not a single reviewer noticed the altered ending!

Copyright 2006, Robert A Schanke. All rights reserved.