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Edward Ludlum; Stage, TV Director Helped Develop Small L.A. Theaters

November 25, 2000|From a Times Staff Writer

Edward Ludlum, veteran stage and television director who helped develop small theaters in the Southland, has died. He was 80.

Ludlum died Tuesday in Los Angeles, said his publicist, David Stanford.

In recent years, the director had provided new hearings for the historic letters of playwright George Bernard Shaw and Victorian actress Ellen Terry. Using letters the two wrote to each other between 1892 and 1920, which had been compiled by Richard Findlater, Ludlum produced "The Paper Courtship" and starred as Shaw.

The play, which one Times reviewer saw as "quaint and beguiling," was staged at the American New Theatre in Hollywood in 1989 and at the St. Genesius Theatre in West Hollywood in 1992, among other venues.

Other plays Ludlum directed in the small theaters of the Los Angeles area included "Once Again With You" at the Mainstage Theater in North Hollywood in 1987, "An Intelligent Machine" at Theatre Rapport in 1986 and novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald's only play, "The Vegetable," written in 1923.

"Fitzgerald had fiddled with theater a little in college but never thought he could be a playwright--though he had always wanted to be," Ludlum told The Times in 1985 when he was staging the play at the Jai Theatre in West Hollywood.

Before Ludlum's effort, Fitzgerald's play had only one outing, and that was in 1925 at the Apollo Theatre in Atlantic City, N.J. The play involves, as Ludlum explained, "an average railway clerk [named Jerry Frost] who daydreams himself into being president."

By the second act, Ludlum said, the fantasy is realized and Frost is "facing impeachment, the worst president in history. In the third act, he goes back to reality and achieves what he'd always wanted to be--a postman."

Born in New York City, Ludlum made his directorial debut there in 1951, and staged such plays on and off Broadway as Eugene O'Neill's "Desire Under the Elms" and William Inge's "Come Back, Little Sheba" and "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs."

After he moved to Hollywood, Ludlum directed several productions of his friend Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" as well as "The Glass Menagerie."

Ludlum also did some directing in television, for the series "Gunsmoke," "Mike Hammer," "Death Valley Days" and "Whispering Smith." By showcasing stage actors where they could be seen by television casting directors, Ludlum also helped bring many to the small screen, including Ted Knight of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and Lorne Greene of "Bonanza."

Survivors include two cousins, actor Tom Carroll and author Robert Ludlum.

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