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'Born Yesterday's' Kanin Recalls Opening Night of '46

June 21, 1988|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

"He was a fascinating character," Kanin said. "He used to come to early morning programs in a full dinner jacket. Apparently"--he smiled--"he had been up all night."

But the announcer proved a reliable acting professional in "Yesterday." No matter that he first thought he was being asked to invest in it and then, when asked if he could act, calmly flicked ashes off the end of his cigarette and told Kanin:

"Kid, you are looking at probably the finest actor in America."

It did not dismay the playwright a day later when Douglas, having read the script, said he would appear in the show, then tossed the script on Kanin's desk and said: "Needs work."

Like many stage veterans, Kanin frets about the current state of Broadway, even though the box office is up this season, primarily due to such hits as "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables."

"If New York theater were not one of the city's principal tourist attractions, I think it'd be out of business," he said.

Yet despite his gloom, Kanin is working on a new play, which he will only describe as about "life."

"I can't help it," he said. "I know, it doesn't make sense for me to write plays. I have two unproduced plays and here I am writing another one. You can look at me and quite reasonably say, 'What's the point?'

"I don't know. I can't explain it. But that's what I do. I'm a playwright. I write plays."

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