Larry Blyden (1925 - 1975)



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Larry Blyden. Ivan Lawrence Blieden (June 23, 1925 – June 6, 1975), known as Larry Blyden, was an American actor, stage producer and director, and game show host. He made his Broadway stage debut in 1948 and went on to appear in numerous productions on and off Broadway. In 1972, he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in the revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum which he also produced. That same year, he became the host of the syndicated revival version of What's My Line?.
At the time of his death, Blyden was slated to host a new game show Showoffs. He died of injuries sustained in a single car accident while vacationing in Morocco on June 6, 1975.
Early life
Blyden was born to Adolph and Marian (née Davidson) Blieden in Houston, Texas, and raised in the Jewish faith.] As a child, he attended Wharton Elementary School and Sidney Lanier Junior High School. Blyden became interested in acting at a young age and made his stage debut in a production headed by Margo Jones when he was 14 years old.[4] After graduating from Lamar High School, Blyden attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute for a year before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. After the war, he enrolled at the University of Houston. While in college, Blyden worked as an announcer for KPRC radio and performed at the Alley Theatre and Houston Little Theater. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1948, Blyden moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.
Stage and films
While in New York, Blyden again worked in radio and studied acting at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting for eighteen months. While starring in a showcase of The Importance of Being Earnest, he was spotted by director Joshua Logan who cast him in a small role in the Broadway production of Mister Roberts. He was then cast in the larger role of "Ensign Pulver", and remained with the production until 1951. His second Broadway role was that of "Schmutz" in the original production of Wish You Wish Here. In 1958, Blyden replaced Larry Storch as "Sammy Fong" in the out-of-town tryouts for the musical Flower Drum Song. He remained in the role during the show's original Broadway run for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. The show was choreographed by his then-wife, Carol Haney. That same year, he appeared in You Can't Take It with You, at Expo 58 (also known as Brussels World's Fair).
In November 1962, Blyden tried his hand at stage directing in the Broadway production of Harold, starring Anthony Perkins and Don Adams. The production closed after twenty performances. In February 1967, Blyden replaced Martin Balsam in the Broadway production of You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running. Blyden's second stage directing effort was the play The Mother Lover, in which he also starred. The production also featured Eileen Heckart and Valerie French and premiered at the Booth Theatre on February 1, 1969. In March 1972, he portrayed the role of "Hysterirum" in the revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, starring Phil Silvers, which Blyden also produced. He won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his work in the play.
In 1974, Blyden appeared as "Dionysos" with the Yale Repertory Theatre in the musical comedy The Frogs, in New Haven, Connecticut. The play was written by Burt Shevelove, and based on a play written by Aristophanes in 405 B.C. The play's music and lyrics were composed by Stephen Sondheim. Blyden's final stage role was that of "Sidney" in Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absurd Person Singular, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play and a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. He remained with the production for 250 performances.
Over the course of his career, Blyden appeared in three feature films. He made his film debut in a supporting role in the 1957 drama The Bachelor Party, starring Don Murray. He also had supporting roles in Kiss Them for Me (1957) and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970).
In addition to stage and occasional film work, Blyden also appeared in guest spots for television shows. In the 1950s, he made guest performances on several dramatic anthology shows including Playhouse 90, Omnibus, The Loretta Young Show and The United States Steel Hour. In May 1955, CBS announced that Blyden was set to star opposite Nita Talbot in the sitcom Joe and Mabel. The series, which was based on the radio series of the same name that had aired on the NBC Red Network from February 1941 to September 1942, was scheduled to premiere on September 20, 1955. Production began that summer but was hampered by the Screen Actors Guild strike that began on August 5, 1955. Although the strike lasted just ten days, production on the series ceased. Production eventually resumed but the series was plagued with various issues and, upon being previewed for critics, was poorly received. CBS eventually decided to burn off the series' thirteen completed episodes during the summer of 1956 after which it was canceled.
After the cancellation of Joe and Mabel, Blyden returned to stage work (replacing Ray Walston in the Philadelphia and Broadway runs of Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? and Flower Drum Song). He returned to television in 1959 as "Sammy Glick" in the television adaptation of Budd Schulberg's 1941 novel What Makes Sammy Run?. The two-part special aired on the NBC Sunday Showcase on September 27 and October 4, 1959, and also starred John Forsythe, Dina Merrill and Barbara Rush.
In the early 1960s, Blyden returned to television with guest starring roles in two episodes of The Twilight Zone: "A Nice Place to Visit" in April 1960 and "Showdown with Rance McGrew" in February 1962 in which he starred as the title character.[19] In 1963, Blyden was cast to star in a second sitcom, NBC's Harry's Girls. Produced by MGM Television, the series was an adaptation of the Robert E. Sherwood play Idiot's Delight, with Blyden starring as Harry, a vaudeville style performer constantly getting into trouble and falling in love.[20] The series received a great deal of publicity before it aired because it was being filmed on location in Europe (interiors were filmed at the Studios De La Victorine in France while exteriors were shot on location in Rome, Paris and other European locations). Upon its debut, Harry's Girls was also not well received and was canceled after one season. For the remainder of the decade, Blyden continued with guest roles on television including spots on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Defenders, The Fugitive, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
In the late 1960s, Blyden began working as a game show host and master of ceremonies starting with Personality in June 1967. In 1969, he hosted You're Putting Me On and The Movie Game. In 1972, Blyden took over hosting duties for the syndicated revival of the game show What's My Line?. Blyden remained the show's host until it was canceled in 1975.
In the weeks before his death, Blyden was involved in several major projects. He co-hosted the 29th Tony Awards telecast that aired on ABC on April 20, 1975. On May 2, Blyden reprised his role as Ensign Pulver opposite Henry Fonda at a gala tribute to director Joshua Logan at Broadway's Imperial Theatre (which was recorded and eventually released on a privately distributed LP album). He also narrated a segment of CBS's Bicentennial Minute which aired during primetime the evening of May 30.[25]
Personal life
Blyden married actress and dancer Carol Haney on April 17, 1955 in Las Vegas. The couple had two children: Joshua and Ellen Rachel. Blyden and Haney were divorced in 1962.
On May 6, 1975, Blyden left the production of Absurd Person Singular after he was hired to host a new game show entitled Showoffs. He videotaped the pilot episode on May 24. Before production was set to begin, Blyden was granted a two-week vacation and decided to fly to Marrakesh, Morocco. While driving near Agadir on May 31, Blyden's rental car reportedly went off the road and overturned. According to Blyden's manager, Blyden suffered injuries to the chest, head and abdomen. He underwent surgery but died of his injuries on June 6. Blyden's body was flown back to the United States on June 13. A memorial was held on June 20 after which he was buried at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.
Hysterium Producer
Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical
October 8, 1974 – May 6, 1975 Absurd Person Singular Sidney Nominated: Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play

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at Texas,


at Morocco,

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In December of 1974, What’s My Line was cancelled after a six year syndication run and a near twenty-five year duration overall, with Larry Blyden having hosted its last two years and several months. Goodson-Todman, the production company behind What’s My Line? and other classic game shows, offered Larry an emceeing slot on an upcoming idea called Showoffs, which was basically a combination of charades and a ‘Beat The Clock’-esque format. Meanwhile, Blyden had started the last great stage role of his all too short-lived career: Sidney, in Absurd Person Singular, a British farce also featuring Tony Roberts, Carole Shelley, and Richard Kiley. Larry won the role through a heavy demonstration of his best Cockney accent during the interview and audition, and never dropped the accent at all between entering and leaving the room. It paid off most handsomely, landing Blyden his third Tony Award nomination, for 1975 Best Featured Actor In A Play, as well as also his first and only Drama Desk Award nomination, for 1975 Outstanding Featured Actor In A Play. Remaining one of Broadway’s hardest workers, Larry took on the skit directing and hosting duties for the 1975 Tony Awards and again was one of the on-stage performers (alongside other stars such as co-hosts Bobby Van and Larry Kert). Such duties would be Larry Blyden’s fifth to last ever appearance in anything…his fourth to last being a gala to Joshua Logan (which was recorded and distributed only among private parties) where he reprised his Ensign Pulver role from Mister Roberts, his third being a week on Blankety Blanks (May 12th-16th), his second being the pilot for the aforementioned Showoffs, taped on May 24th, 1975; and his final showing being a Bicentennial Minute segment that aired on CBS on May 31st. A couple of days after the Showoffs pilot taping, Larry Blyden embarked on a plane for a promised two week vacation in Morocco before the official tapings for Showoffs were to begin later in June. On May 31st, Larry was in a horrific automobile accident between Agadir and Tan-Tan, and sustained significant wounds to his head, chest, and abdomen. Larry underwent surgery, but ultimately succumbed to his injuries on June 6th, just a little over two weeks shy of turning fifty. As well as quite sadly and literally alone, with all loved ones and friends an ocean away, and very tragically ending a most inimitable and still blossoming career and young life all too soon.


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1925 - In the year that Larry Blyden was born, on November 28th, radio station WSM broadcast the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. Originally airing as “The WSM Barn Dance”, the Opry (a local term for "opera") was dedicated to honoring country music and in its history has featured the biggest stars and acts in country music.

1938 - Larry was just 13 years old when on October 30th, a Sunday, The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast Orson Welles' special Halloween show The War of the World's. A clever take on H.G. Wells' novel, the show began with simulated "breaking news" of an invasion by Martians. Because of the realistic nature of the "news," there was a public outcry the next day, calling for regulation by the FCC. Although the current story is that many were fooled and panicked, in reality very few people were fooled. But the show made Orson Welles' career.

1949 - When he was 24 years old, on April 4th, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was established. Twelve nations originally signed the North Atlantic Treaty - the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Portugal. Greece, Turkey, and West Germany later joined. Today, there are 26 nations in NATO.

1970 - At the age of 45 years old, Larry was alive when on April 10th, Paul McCartney announced that he was leaving the Beatles. (John Lennon had previously told the band that he was leaving but hadn't publicly announced it.) By the end of the year, each Beatle had his own album.

1975 - In the year of Larry Blyden's passing, on September 5th, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme tried to assassinate President Ford in Sacramento, California. She failed when her gun wouldn't fire. President Ford escaped a second assassination attempt 17 days later on September 22 when Sarah Jane Moore tried to shoot him in San Francisco. A bystander saw her raise her arm, grabbed it, and the shot went wild.

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Larry Blyden, Actor on Stage, Screen and Television, 49, Dies
June 7, 1975, Page 30
The New York Times Archives
Larry Blyden, a versatile theatrical performer who produced, directed and acted on stage, in movies and on television for more than 25 years, died yesterday in Agadir, Morocco, of injuries suffered last Saturday in an automobile accident. He was 49 years old. (He was also a writer.)

Mr. Blyden's death was announced by Lionel Larner, his agent. Mr. Lamer said that the actor's car crashed about 15 miles from Agadir. Mr. Blyden was on vacation at the time.

Mr. Blyden was at a high point in his career. Playing Sidney in the comedy “Absurd Person Singular,” he had won (much critical acclaim. About two weeks ago he left the cast, after 250 performances, for a vacation before beginning work on an American Broadcasting Companies television game show to be called “The Showoff.”

Television game shows gave Mr. Blyden a degree of recognition that years as an actor on the stage had not.
He said early in his career that “when I used to come on stage before a telecast, I was lucky to get a hand a few times a week—from friends and family. Immediately after, I got a big hand when I came out.

“Six plays, with leading parts, mean nothing as far as public recognition is concerned.”
He was host of a National Broadcasting Company daytime show called “Personality” and later followed John Daly as the host of the CBS “What's My Line?”
As an actor on television, Mr. Blyden played Sammy Glick in television's adaption of “What Makes Sammy Run?” And in an NBC comedy series, “Harry's Girls,” he was Harry Burns, a song and dance man. He also played roles in pro ductions of the Philco Playhouse Studio One and the Kraft Theater.
The Broadway stage, however, was the focus of Mr. Blyden's theatrical efforts. And gradually, over the years, he began to win recognition for his talents. He received a Tony award as an actor and co‐producer of a revival of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Ways to the Forum.” And for his role in “Absurd Person Singular” he earned a Tony nomination this spring.
Broadway Appearances
He appeared in productions, of “Wish You Were Here,” “Oh, Men! Oh, Women!,” “Who Wash That Lady?” “Foxy,” “Blues for Mr. Charlie,” “Luv,” “The Apple Tree,” “Flower Drum Song,” “You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running,” “The Miser” and “The Time of Your Life.” He also directed the comedy “Harold.”
Mr. Blyden was born Ivan Lawrence Blieden in Houston on June 23, 1925. At 14, suffering in a high school carpentry course, he switched to a theater class.
He served in the Marine Corps, came out a second lieutenant in 1946 and was graduated from the University of Houston in 1948.
Arrived With $9
He arrived in New York, the traditional Broadway hopeful, with $9 in his pocket. He studied acting with Lee Strasberg at the American Theater Wing, and with Herbert Berghof and Stella Adler.
He deplored the then very popular “method” school, contending that it did young actors “more harm than good.”
He paid attention to the craft of acting and last year, in a letter to The New York Times, said: “One of the differences between amateur and a pro is that an amateur will settle for allowances and a pro won't. I am not used to having allowances made for my shortcomings, nor am I used to making any for myself. No pro does.
“Amateurs, on the other hand, don't really yet know what to do or how, so allowances are a part of their lives. That's O.K.—for them. I have never known a self‐indulgent ‘artist’ or an undisciplined one. It is a contradiction in terms.”
In addition to his stage and television work, Mr. Blyden's movie appearances included “Bachelor Party.”
During the run of “Flower Drum Song,” he ran an acting school for Orientals in the cast who had chorus and small‐part experience but who wanted to acquire basic acting techniques.
In 1955, he married Carol Haney, a dancer and choreographer. They were divorced in 1962 and two years later she died at the age of 39.
They had two children, Joshua and Ellen Rachel. Mr. Blyden is also survived by his mother, Marian Davidson Blieden.


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