1899 Noël Coward is born. He authors plays such as Hay Fever, Design for Living, and Private Lives, scripts for the films Brief Encounter and This Happy Breed, and more than 500 songs, including "Mad Dogs and Englishmen." Coward makes his Broadway debut in 1925 in his own The Vortex. A first-time Broadway mounting of Waiting in the Wings marks the 100 year anniversary of Coward's birth when it opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre, December 16, 1999.
1936 Eddie Albert and José Ferrer are featured in Brother Rat, a comedy by John Monks, Jr. and Fred F. Finklehoffe, which runs 577 performances at the Biltmore Theatre. It's about cadets at the Virginia Military Academy who try to keep the secret that one of them has gotten married. Albert recreates his role for the 1938 film, which co-stars Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman.
1948 Carol Channing, Gene Nelson, and Yvonne Adair Lend an Ear in the revue at the National Theatre in New York. Gower Champion and Hal Gerson direct the 460 performances.
1953 The Prescott Proposals, starring Katharine Cornell as a delegate to the UN, presides over the Broadhurst Theatre for 15 weeks. Director Howard Lindsay also penned the script with Russel Crouse.
1954 Agatha Christie returns to Broadway with her third, and most successful, thriller: Witness for the Prosecution, about an attorney who has survived a near-fatal heart attack only to take on a murder case that turns up the pressure when his client's wife becomes a witness against him. It runs 645 performances at Henry Miller's Theatre. Francis L. Sullivan plays the stressed-out attorney.
1959 When a deceased womanizer comes back to life in the body of Lauren Bacall, co-star Sydney Chaplin says Goodbye, Charlie. Written and directed by George Axelrod, the comedy runs for 109 performances at the Lyceum Theatre.
1960 Lucille Ball drills for oil in Wildcat at the Alvin Theatre. Michael Kidd hat-tricks by producing, directing, and choreographing the N. Richard Nash, Cy Coleman, and Carolyn Leigh tuner. Lucy leaves after 171 performances and the show closes.
1987 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a program designed to help fight the threat of the AIDS virus, is launched.
1993 Composing great Jule Styne gives Broadway his final score in a musical adaptation of the ballet classic The Red Shoes. It closes after just 5 performances, and the ailing composer dies 10 months later. Lyrics are by Pulitzer-winner Marsha Norman and Paul Stryker (aka Bob Merrill). Staging is by Stanley Donen.
1999 Noël Coward's Waiting in the Wings gets its posthumous Broadway debut, with a cast of great doyennes, including Rosemary Harris, Lauren Bacall, Dana Ivey, Elizabeth Wilson, and many more. Sadly, it's also the last of more than 100 Broadway shows produced by titan Alexander H. Cohen, who dies the following April while the show is still running. It ends up playing 183 performances.
2003 Shubert Organization Chairman Gerald Schoenfeld assumes the chairmanship of the League of American Theatres and Producers, replacing Cy Feuer.
More of Today's Birthdays: Cameron Prud'Homme (1892-1967). Nancy Andrews (1920-1989). George Schaefer (1920-1997). Liv Ullmann (b. 1938). Benny Andersson (b. 1946). LaChanze (b. 1961). Sam Robards (b. 1961). Adam Guettel (b. 1964). Kathleen Marshall (b. 1967).