Thursday, October 16, 2008

Damn It, Edie Adams Is Dead

I really liked her. In everything. She never quite made it big in anything, but she did everything very well: funny, sexy, a fine singer and actress. As a singer, she had a trained soprano voice that was one of Broadway's best (though she was not at her best as Daisy Mae in Li'l Abner, a part she didn't much care for). Leonard Bernstein was impressed enough with her vocal skill that in Wonderful Town, he wrote a rather difficult coloratura part for her in the "Conversation Piece" number; on the cast album, she does it effortlessly, but every other person who has played Eileen has had trouble getting the notes out -- and one production just gave up and assigned the coloratura to a male character singing falsetto. Bernstein wanted her for the even more difficult part of Cunegonde in Candide, but she did Li'l Abner instead. (Barbara Cook, who played the part, was great, but even she struggles with the coloratura effects that Bernstein wrote with Adams in mind.)

She had a good career as a supporting player in movies in the early '60s, getting an Oscar nomination as Fred MacMurray's jilted mistress/secretary in The Apartment, providing some of the best moments in Love With the Proper Stranger, and stealing Lover Come Back as the bubbleheaded, buxom Southern belle, making the most of Paul Henning's great lines (as well as having all the equipment necessary to sell Henning's many boob jokes). It's too bad she disappears from the movie after the first half. Her movie career dried up after a few very busy years in the early '60s, but she made many guest appearances on television well into the early '90s.

The young Edie Adams on the Dumont network:

In Love With the Proper Stranger, but without her best moment in the film: "You want me to find you a doctor?!":


John said...

NFL football fans during the late 60s and early 70s got to know Adams best from her "Why don't you come up and smoke one sometime?" Muriel cigar commercials that were ubiquitous on Sunday afternoons every fall.

Jenny Lerew said...

I had the same reaction.

I didn't know she was so ill...I'd always hoped to have a fact to face meeting with her. Our paths crossed in odd ways various times over the last 25 years, but it never happened. We did have a lengthy(and illuminating) personal chat on AOL once--I peppered her with oddball theater/song/Kovacs questions and she answered them all graciously and with enthusiasm.
That first clip is something else--the contest that started it all for her, and likely the youngest appearance by her.
She would have been a perfect Cunegonde--wonder why that didn't happen(the salary offered, perhaps?)...I read her book but don't remember that at all; then again, the book's wildly disjointed, jumping all over the place; dropping bits of tantalizing stories here and there, then rushing on to something else. She had a tough road to say the least and managed it well.
She was so talented in her own right in the right things; yet today is remembered over and over for Kovacs alone--but anyone who picks up and listens to the original cast of "Wonderful Town" won't be disappointed. What a charmer and what a voice.

My heart goes out to her son, Josh.

bbunny2009 said...

Let us not forget her role in the comedy classic IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD. While it's not terribly funny all the time, this movie is so infinitely watchable thanks to a stellar cast...Ms. Adams among the assorted nuts.

Anonymous said...

Also in "The Apartment" ... didn't Edie Adams have a second role ... the Marilyn Monroe-type at the bar where Ray Walston's character was hanging out waiting for time in the apartment?
Read that Adams did a killer Monroe, sometimes on her husband Kovacs' shows...

Jenny Lerew said...

No, Edie only played that one part in "The Apartment". She did do a decent Monroe routine that was a staple of her Vegas act until MM's death.

Also, Jaime: I think Edie was not ever nominated for an Academy Award, including for "The Apartment". I too think I read this in various obits but it's not so.

Anonymous said...

Here is Edie Adams as Monroe on the Ernie Kovacs Show.