LAWRENCE, GERTRUDE Autograph letter to Celeste Holm offering her dressing room upon leaving The King and I to recover.
[New York: Late June/July 1952]. Two page autograph letter signed "Mrs. Anna" in green in on one folded sheet of Lawrence's pale blue stationery with her name hand-lettered in blue at head, 8 x 6 inches, folds, else fine.
A remarkable and very late letter to Celeste Holm from Gertrude Lawrence, then in the final role of her life as Anna in The King and I, offering her dressing room during the period of her planned recuperation period that summer. Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I was a major Broadway hit upon opening in March 1951 with Gertrude Lawrence winning the Best Actress Tony and lauded for her fine performance opposite co-star Yul Brynner. But unfortunately her health rapidly deteriorated with what was originally thought of as hepatitis and later diagnosed as liver cancer, and it was quickly arranged that during peak summer heat Lawrence would recuperate and the role of Anna assumed by Ms. Holm. Gertrude Lawrence here offers Ms. Holm her dressing room: "Dear Celeste/I understand that you are [?] on rehearsals on Sunday so this is to wish you Bon Voyage. Also please feel free to use my dressing room during these next 3 weeks. You won't be in here much but at least there is a piano a comfy chair and a shower!" Lawrence continues about the rehearsal schedule mentioning Yul Brynner and closes that "this is just to tell you to 'hang your hat' upstairs with my love and again until August 11th/Mrs. Anna" to which an arrow pierced heart is added.
A biography of Lawrence identifies the date mentioned in the letter: "By Monday, 11 August, the holiday over, she was apparently fit and fine again, and back in the show" referring to Lawrence's recovery which was short lived. On August 16th Lawrence fainted backstage and was admitted to New York-Presbyterian Hospital where she died on September 6th, 1952. An important late letter from the great Gertrude Lawrence.
See MORLEY, SHERIDAN. Gertrude Lawrence, A Biography, 1981, p. 197.
C The Celeste Holm Collection
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