Article

From the New York Times, Sunday, October 1, 1995

Alexander Clark, Broadway Actor, 94, Dies

by Robert McG. Thomas Jr.

Alexander Clark, an actor who worked almost constantly on Broadway for more than 50 years only to upstage himself with a single appearance as “Andre the decorator” in a 1958 episode of the television show “The Honeymooners,” died yesterday at his home in Manhattan. He was 94.

In a field in which careers are said to be written on water, Mr. Clark created his share of ripples in the Broadway stream. From the moment he made his debut with Helen Hayes in “Golden Days” in 1921 until well after he joined her in her last stage appearance — as Queen Victoria in a benefit performance of “Victoria Regina” in 1967 — he was rarely out of work.

In addition to Miss Hayes, who became one of his closest friends, he appeared with Ina Claire in “Biography” (1932), Beatrice Lillie in “Too Good to Be True” (1939), Canada Lee in “Native Son” (1942), Richard Burton in “Legend of Lovers” (1951) and Joseph Cotten in “Calculated Risk” (1962).

Mr. Clark, who played a range of supporting roles, was in demand partly because of his handsome, dignified appearance, partly because of his versatility as an actor and his professionalism and partly because he had such an engaging off-stage personality and a fund of theater stories that actors, directors and even stagehands simply liked to have him around.

Indeed, Mr. Clark, a close friend of Dorothy Parker and other Algonquin Round Table regulars as well as of the Algonquin’s longtime owner, Frank Case, was considered such a boon companion that he made a cherished subsidiary career simply by having lunch.

As the secretary of the New York branch of the Escholier Club, which was founded by the financier Jules Bache and other wealthy theater buffs in 1941, he was in charge of rounding up the celebrity guests for the club’s regular lavish lunches at restaurants like the “21” Club, Lutèce and eventually the Four Seasons. Among those he recruited were Gertrude Lawrence, Vivien Leigh, Edith Piaf, Salvador Dali (a club favorite who made some 50 appearances in 30 years), and, in one memorable double bill, Maria Callas and Adlai Stevenson.

Mr. Clark, who wrote articles for The New Yorker and other magazines and served a year as theater editor of Vanity Fair in the 1930’s, was also a founder and first president of the Friends of Richard III, an organization founded in 1955 to establish that the British monarch was not the murderous thug that his Tudor successors and Shakespeare made him out to be.

Of all Mr. Clark’s Broadway roles, it was as a society cad in the 1942 production of “Counselor at Law” with Paul Muni that Mr. Clark made his most lasting impression, at least on a 19-year-old actress named Frances Tannehill. Miss Tannehill, who became his wife, had to be prompted yesterday to recall her part in the play.

“I’m such a dignified lady,” she said. “I played a hooker.”

Mr. Clark, an Episcopalian, and Miss Tannehill, a Catholic, were married in 1945 in what Mr. Clark insisted on calling the St. Patrick’s mixed grill: the cathedral rectory.

While his stage career may have been lost with the flow of time, at least two of his performances will apparently live forever. He appears as a film producer in a “Honeymooners” episode known as “On Stage” and, most memorably, as Andre, the decorator who leaves his glove behind in “Pardon My Glove.”

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Nicole, of Manhattan.

 

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