Friday, April 22, 2011

Robert Alda vs. Marlon Brando

I promised a Sardi's story, and here it is. My mom, syndicated fashion columnist Florence De Santis, was set to interview actor Robert Alda over lunch at Sardi's for one of her celebrity stories. She was a regular at Sardi's and occasionally took me or my brother along to her lunches.

I think I was age 12 or so at this time - mid-Sixties. She carefully prepped me for the meeting, explaining that Mr. Alda had originated the role of Sky Masterson when Guys and Dolls opened in 1950 (four years before I was born). She also said she thought he "wuz robbed" by Hollywood when Marlon Brando was cast in the 1955 film.

I seem to recall that I'd seen the film by the time we went to lunch, but in those pre-VCR/DVD days, it would have had to have been a movie theater revival or on television (the TV rights were sold in 1967).

Well, I was ready and thrilled to meet Mr. Alda, who was in his 50s at the time and very dashing. As the conversation at lunch - I remember it was a table right in the middle of the room, with Broadway people all around us - turned to Guys and Dolls, I was eager to show off my theater knowledge and blurted out, "Oh yes, Mr. Alda, you played Marlon Brando's part!" Of course, I had intended to say exactly the opposite. I really did want the floor to open and swallow me up.

He was kind to a young girl, but the air sort of froze. I can hear his voice yet; it was like brown velvet. "No, dear, he played my part," he said.

And that was the truth.

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