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Nedda Harrigan Logan; Actress Co-Founded Stage Door Canteen

April 04, 1989|ERIC MALNIC | Times Staff Writer

Nedda Harrigan Logan--whose life was bound to the theater through her father, her husband and her own career as an actress and co-founder of the World War II Stage Door Canteen--has died in New York at 89.

In recent years, people tended to remember her best for the lavish parties she and her husband, director-producer Joshua Logan, threw in their sumptuous Eastside apartment--gatherings that established them in the front row of Broadway's sophisticated celebrity couples.

But her place in the theater reached a lot further back than that--to the turn of the century.

Father in Vaudeville

Nedda Logan was the tag-along 10th child of Edward (Ned) "H-A-Double-R-I-G-A-N Spells Harrigan," the theatrical impresario who joined with Tony Hart to form the Harrigan and Hart comic vaudeville team.

The Harrigan home in the Adirondacks resembled a resort hotel in scale, and on weekends it housed almost as many guests. Sunday morning's tables were often set for 35 or more, and the breakfast roster usually included actors, writers and stars of the vaudeville circuit.

By the time Nedda Harrigan was 16, she was treading the boards herself, acting in the sort of summer stock companies that produced 20 different plays in 20 weeks.

"It was fun, good training and wild," she recalled later. "It taught me the acting business, and it taught me never to be a minute late. A minute late is a minute lost."

The young, pretty actress lost little time advancing her career, first turning up in Hollywood's Charlie Chan movies--"Whenever they found a knife in a body, I was the one who dunnit"--and then on Broadway, where she had a leading role in "Charlie's Aunt."

Joshua Logan was the director of the long-running play, and the two quickly became close friends. But that was in 1940, and within two years, Logan was off to the war as an Army Air Corps intelligence officer.

Not to be outdone, Nedda Harrigan went to Washington and talked the USO into letting her and others produce plays for servicemen in New York in what became known as the Stage Door Canteen. In 1942, she took several of the plays to Europe to entertain the troops.

Upon returning from Europe in 1945, she and Logan married. While he continued to pursue a career as a director and producer of such hits as "Annie Get Your Gun," "Picnic," "Mister Roberts" and "South Pacific," she retired.

"Who wants to be married to an actress?" she responded later, to someone who'd asked why she had done it. "Imagine him coming home to find me reading a play, and then demanding a part."

But retirement did not mean inactivity. In 1955, she founded the Actors' Fund Bloodbank. In 1980, she was elected president of the Actors' Fund. She also served as a trustee of the Museum of the City of New York.

And until his death last year, she and Logan continued to entertain a glamorous mix from show business and public life on both sides of the Atlantic.

Nedda Logan died Saturday at her Manhattan home after a long battle with cancer. Survivors include a son, Thomas Logan, two daughters, Ann Connolly and Harrigan Logan, and four grandchildren.

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