Leonard Sillman

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b. 9 May 1908, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 23 January 1982, New York City, New York, USA. From the age of 14 Sillman studied dance in New York and in 1925, despite his youth and inexperience, took the…
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Artist Biography by

b. 9 May 1908, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 23 January 1982, New York City, New York, USA. From the age of 14 Sillman studied dance in New York and in 1925, despite his youth and inexperience, took the leading role in a touring company version of Lady, Be Good!, which on Broadway had starred Fred Astaire. He appeared on Broadway in small roles in Merry-Go-Round (1927) before going to Hollywood where he taught dance and also made some minor appearances in films, including Bombshell (1933), which starred Jean Harlow. Sillman’s real love, though, was for the stage and in 1933 he produced a revue, Lo And Behold, in Pasadena, California. In the show were several noted Hollywood artists, including Tyrone Power, Eve Arden and Kay Thompson, as well as Sillman’s sister, June Carroll. The show’s success was such that the following year Sillman re-staged it on Broadway. Renamed New Faces (1934), it starred newcomers such as Henry Fonda and Imogene Coca. From then until 1968, Sillman staged 13 editions of New Faces and also presented a radio version in 1948 and a film version in 1952. The latter was photographed during the 1952 stage production, which starred Eartha Kitt, Alice Ghostley and Paul Lynde. After this edition of the New Faces, Sillman found it hard to reach the same standard. The 1962 and 1968 editions in particular, were flops.

Among other Broadway productions of Sillman’s, not all of which were musicals, were Journey’s End and They Knew What They Wanted (both 1939), All In Fun (1941, which was a costly flop), If The Shoe Fits (1946, another failure), Mrs. Patterson (1954), Mask And Gown and Miss Isobel (both 1957), A Second String (1960), The Family Way (1965) and a revival of Noël Coward’s Hay Fever (1970). In the 70s Sillman began work on a new edition of New Faces. Although this failed to reach Broadway, he did stage it at the Ballroom on West Broadway in 1977. Although troubled by it being overlong, and with Sillman himself unwell, he presented a show in which songs from several of his early shows were performed by artists such as Ann Anello, June Carroll, Virginia DeLuce, Brandon Maggart and Jeremy Wind. (A film entitled New Faces Of 1937 is not connected with Sillman’s productions.)