left with co-star James Donald) in John Cocteau's exercise in intellectual melodrama, The Eagle Has Two Heads. As the Queen of an unnamed Ruritanian country she performed what was one the longest speeches in the history of the English stage. Ronald Duncan's translation contained some 2,982 words; her twenty-one minute tirade ranged from memories of her dead husband to an invitation to a young poet, who resembles her dead beloved, to assassinate her. It was a performance that left opinion divided and very few on the fence - it was either a tour de force of acting or a theatrical pony trick.
Herlie was to divide critics, and audiences, throughout her varied career. Harold Hobson adored her but she was the victim of Kenneth Tynan's acid tongue on more than one occasion. Her Medea was memorably sent up by Hermione Gingold as "the grreat tradddgic awktress". A transfer to Broadway of Thorton Wilder's The Matchmaker brought her to North America in 1956 and she stay there until her death in 2008. During that time, in New York and on tour, she played classics, modern (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf), comedy, melodrama and musical comedy.
|Eileen Herlie in publicity photo for her|
role as Myrtle Fargate in All My Children.
She was to play the role for 32 years.
Though it has been recorded by everyone from The Four Tops to Tony Bennett there is something quite touching and lovely about Bolger and Herlie's delivery on the original cast album. Neither of them had great voices but they, and to my mind particularly Herlie, bring to it an aching melancholy of young love past, perhaps lessons learned and maybe even a quiet acceptance of the way life has turned out.
In 1976 Eileen Herlie all but deserted the stage for the world of television soap opera. She was to play the role of Myrtle Fargate on All My Children until three months before her death in 2008 at the age of 90.
As I said earlier - her's was a fascinating career.
May 8 - 1886: Pharmacist John Pemberton first sells a carbonated beverage named "Coca-Cola" as a patent medicine.