Othello, 1937

The 1930s saw a series of vibrant revivals of Shakespeare works. Theatergoers had the opportunity to see Lunt and Fontanne in The Taming of the Shrew; The Yiddish's Theatre's Merchant of Venice with Maurice Moscovitch; Helen Hayes in Twlefth Night; Orson Welles' production of Julius Caesar and his African-American Macbeth for the Harlem unit of the Federal Theatre; Katharine Hepburn was a huge success as Rosalind in As You Like It; and Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong led the band in an all-jazz version of Midsummer's Night Dream entitled Swingin' the Dream. By mid-decade, the Bard was the most-produced playwright on Broadway. Ben drew many Romeos, Juliets, Richard IIIs, Hamlets, Orphelia, Falstaffs, Lady Macbeths, and even an actor portraying Shakespeare.

Robert Edmond Jones staged and designed this production of Othello staring Huston as Othello and Brian Aherne as Iago (whom Ben also drew). Desdemonda was played by Nan Sunderland (who was Huston’s wife). Among the group listed in the program as "Officers, Gentlemen, Messengers, Sailors and Attendants" was a young actor by the name of Lloyd Bridges. The production opened at the New Amsterdam Theater (now the home of Broadway’s hit, The Lion King) on January 6, 1937. While the production had originally been a hit in Central City, Colorado in 1934, and Huston toured extensively in the role, it lasted only 21 performances in New York.

Today, Walter Huston may be best known as the father of John Huston, and grandfather of actress Anjelica Huston, but to many he was one of the first great American actors. He was the first of the three generations to win an Oscar, for his role in The Treasure of Sierra Madre.

Walter Huston began performing in vaudeville in 1909. He made his Broadway debut in 1924 in Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms and soon was in the revolving door between Broadway and Hollywood. While performing in The Commodore Marries in 1929, Huston made his first film Gentlemen of the Press. Later the same year he played opposite Gary Cooper in The Virginian.

Ben Solowey drew Huston in one of his lesser film roles, The Bad Man in 1930 (the same year he played the title role in D. W. Griffith's Abraham Lincoln). In 1934 Ben captured Huston in his greatest triumph in both stage and screen adaptations of Sinclair Lewis's Dodsworth playing the retired industrialist who sheds his nagging, unfaithful wife for true love with an American expatriate in Europe. Huston received a 1936 Oscar nomination for his work in that film,

For a complete list of Solowey Theater Portraits, click here.

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