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Wonderful Town – Television Special 1958

Wonderful Town – Television Special 1958

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Synopsis

ACT I A guide points out to a group of tourists the wonders of the bohemian cradle that is Greenwich Village in 1935 (“Christopher Street”). Sisters Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, the former a writer, the latter an aspiring actress, are newly arrived from Columbus, Ohio. Exhausted, they succumb to artist-landlord Appopolous’s entreaties and rent his squalid basement studio apartment on a trial basis. No sooner have they given Appopolous a month’s rent than they discover that they are living directly over blasting for the new subway and that they are virtually sleeping in the street. Ruth and Eileen begin to wonder if they were wise to leave their cozy Columbus home (“Ohio”). A few weeks later, Ruth’s manuscripts have met with nothing but rejection, while the pretty Eileen has received propositions, but not for her acting talents. Ruth marvels at her sister’s ability to cultivate helpful young men; as for herself, Ruth claims to be the world’s leading expert on how to discourage men (“One Hundred Easy Ways”). At the office of the Manhatter magazine, editor Robert Baker tells Ruth she is but one of many young talents who are headed for disillusionment in their attempt to conquer the city (“What a Waste”). Later, downtown, Eileen charms and is charmed by drugstore manager Frank Lippencott and editor Baker, who has come to talk to Ruth about her stories (“A Little Bit in Love”). To complicate matters, a burly young man in training known as The Wreck – ”football professional out of season” – is temporarily quartered in the girls’ studio while the mother of his live-in lady love is in town. The Wreck reminisces about his glory days on campus (“Pass That Football”). That evening, Ruth and Eileen play host to Lippencott, Baker and Chick Clark, a newspaperman acquaintance of Eileen. The members of this dinner group find they have little in common (“Conversation Piece”). When Ruth and Baker get a minute alone, he tells her that she is talented but that she should write stories about things she’s actually experienced. When Ruth defends her stories by telling him that she puts herself into every character, Baker concludes that she must be repressed or inhibited. Ruth is deeply offended, and an argument ensues. Baker, alone, envisions the kind of girl he would, just once, like to meet (“A Quiet Girl”). The lecherous Clark, who has been trying to get Eileen alone all evening, tricks Ruth into running off to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to interview a passel of newly arrived Brazilian cadets. Ruth attempts to get a story, but the cadets only wish to learn the steps of a certain current dance craze (“Conga!”). Ruth is unable to shake the cadets, who follow her home. Eileen tries unsuccessfully to get rid of them, and a near-riot ensues. Eileen is dragged off by the police, Ruth is borne aloft by the conga-happy cadets, and the curtain falls. ACT II At the Christopher Street Station House, Eileen is detained, but soon has the members of the precinct eating out of her hand (“My Darlin’ Eileen”). Ruth has stayed up all night writing about something she knows – her adventure with the cadets. Baker agrees to read her new story as Ruth goes off to work. Her new job: open-air advertising lady for the local nightspot known as The Village Vortex (“Swing!”). Back at the apartment, Ruth discovers that, because of the incident of the previous night, she and Eileen are about to be dispossessed from their living quarters. It appears the sisters have no choice but to go back to Ohio. Baker arrives, tells Ruth he loves the Navy Yard story and intends to fight his boss to get it published in the Manhatter. When he goes, Ruth admits to Eileen that she is attracted to Baker, but it appears to be too late now for anything to come of it. Because of the publicity Eileen garnered for her arrest, the manager of the Vortex offers Eileen an audition at his club that night. Outside the club, Eileen gets Baker, who has lost his own job going to bat for Ruth’s story, to admit that Ruth’s attraction to him is mutual (“It’s Love”); Inside the Vortex, a tightly packed crowd dances a slow jitterbug (“Ballet at the Village Vortex”). A nervous Eileen is joined by Ruth in an old Columbus favorite (“Wrong Note Rag”), and Eileen is a hit. Chick Clark comes through with a press card and a job for Ruth, the result of her Navy Yard story. Eileen performs an encore as Baker finds Ruth and admits his feeling for her. The Sherwood sisters, having found employment and happiness, are in New York to stay! – Ken Mandelbaum

Credits

Ruth: Rosalind Russell Eileen: Jacquelyn McKeever Robert Baker: Sydney Chaplin The Wreck: Jordan Bentley Frank Lippencott: Cris Alexander Chick Clark: Sam Kirkham Valenti: Ted Beniades Helen: Michele Burke Mrs. Wade: Isabella Hoopes with Joseph Buloff, Jack Fletcher