Dorothy Loudon 1925 – 2003

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Dorothy Loudon


Dorothy Loudon (September 17, 1925 – November 15, 2003)[3] was an American actress and singer. She won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical in 1977 for her performance as Miss Hannigan in Annie. Loudon was also nominated for Tony Awards for her lead performances in the musicals The Fig Leaves Are Falling and Ballroom, as well as a Golden Globe award for her appearances on The Garry Moore Show.

Early Life and Career


Loudon was born in Boston and raised in Indianapolis and Claremont, New Hampshire. She attended Syracuse University on a drama scholarship but did not graduate, and moved to New York City to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She began singing in night clubs, mingling song with ad-libbed comedy patter, and was featured on television on The Perry Como Show and The Ed Sullivan Show.[4]

Loudon made her stage debut in 1962 in The World of Jules Feiffer, a play with incidental music by Stephen Sondheim, under the direction of Mike Nichols. That same year she made her Broadway debut in Nowhere to Go But Up, which ran only two weeks but earned her good reviews and the Theatre World Award.[5] In 1969, The Fig Leaves Are Falling ran for only four performances, although it won her the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance and a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical. She followed this with a revival of Three Men on a Horse directed by George Abbott; Lolita, My Love, which closed out-of-town during its pre-Broadway tryout; and a revival of the Clare Boothe Luce comedy The Women.


Broadway Fame


Loudon’s performance as evil orphanage administrator Miss Hannigan in Annie won her the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical in 1977. In the show she introduced the seminal showtunes “Little Girls” and “Easy Street.” Of her portrayal, Clive Barnes wrote, “As the wicked Miss Hannigan, Dorothy Loudon, eyes bulging with envy, face sagging with hatred, is deliciously and deliriously horrid. She never puts a sneer, a leer, or even a scream in the wrong place, and her singing has just the right brassy bounce to it.”[6] Loudon later revisited the character of Miss Hannigan in the ill-fated 1990 sequel, Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge, which closed quickly after a dismal pre-Broadway engagement in Washington DC.

In 1979, Michael Bennett cast Loudon as Bea Asher, a widow who becomes romantically involved with a mail carrier she meets at the local dance hall, in Ballroom. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. She performed the number “Fifty Percent” from the musical during that year’s Tony Awards ceremony. During her rendition of George Gershwin‘s “Vodka” at the 1983 Tony Awards ceremony while resplendent in a blue sequined gown, she ad-libbed “I’m too good for this room. I’m too good for this song…but I’m not too good for this dress!”[7][8] At the 38th Annual Tony Awards ceremony in 1984, Loudon performed “Broadway Baby” from Follies. In The New York Times, John O’Connor said of her performance, “Miss Loudon has developed the art of mugging into something of a hyperactive disease.”[9]

In 1980, Loudon replaced Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett in Stephen Sondheim‘s Sweeney Todd. In reviewing her performance for the Christian Science Monitor, David Sterritt said, “Her body sways like a reed in the emotional storms of her own scatter-brained creation, and her off-hand manner becomes still more off-handed when the most explosive matters are at stake… Miss Loudon gives a comic characterization in the most classical tradition.”[10] The following year she co-starred with Katharine Hepburn and Julia Barr in the play The West Side Waltz. In 1982 she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre. She appeared in the 1983 Jerry Herman revue Jerry’s Girls; that same year she played the role of the miserable middle-aged actress Dotty Otley on Broadway in Michael Frayn’s farce Noises Off, a huge hit.








Television and Film


Loudon was chosen as the replacement for Carol Burnett when Burnett left the “Gary Moore” show in 1962. Although that collaboration was not altogether successful, the excellent reviews she received the same year for her Broadway debut in Nowhere to Go but Up proved prophetic. Coincidentally, the two roles Loudon later played so successfully on the Broadway stage—Miss Hannigan in Annie and Dotty Otley, a washed-up diva struggling to keep backstage melodrama from ruining her play in the 1983 farce Noises Off—were played by Carol Burnett on screen.

She also was a frequent guest star on many New York based comedy and game shows.

In 1979, Loudon starred in the television series Dorothy, in which she portrayed a former showgirl teaching music and drama at a boarding school for girls. It lasted only one season. She appeared in only two films, playing an agent in the film Garbo Talks (1984) and a Southern eccentric in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997).


Personal Life


Loudon was married to Norman Paris, a composer who wrote the theme song for the television game show I’ve Got a Secret and arranged the music for Stephen Sondheim’s television musical Evening Primrose, from 1971 until his death in 1977. She died in New York City of cancer at the age of 78, and was interred in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla in Westchester County. She left no survivors.[5]


Theatre Credits


  • New Faces of 1959 (1959) (closed prior to opening)
  • The World of Jules Feiffer (1962)
  • Nowhere to Go But Up (1962)
  • Anything Goes (1962) (replacement for Eileen Rodgers)
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1963)
  • The Apple Tree (1967)
  • Noël Coward‘s Sweet Potato (1968)
  • The Fig Leaves are Falling (1969)
  • Three Men on a Horse (1969)
  • Lolita, My Love (1971) (closed on the road)
  • The Women (1973)
  • Annie (1977)
  • Ballroom (1980)
  • Sweeney Todd (1980) (replacement for Angela Lansbury)
  • The West Side Waltz (1981)
  • Noises Off (1983)
  • Jerry’s Girls (1985)
  • Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge (1990) (closed on the road)
  • Comedy Tonight (1994)
  • Show Boat (1996)
  • Sweet Adeline (1997)
  • Over and Over (1999)
  • Dinner at Eight (2002)



Television Credits


  • It’s a Business (1952)
  • The Garry Moore Show (1962–1964)
  • Dorothy (1979)
  • Magnum, P.I. (1986)
  • Murder, She Wrote (1986)
  • Performance at the White House: Showstoppers (1988)
  • A Salute to Broadway: Showstoppers (1988)
  • All My Children (1993)
  • Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall (1993)
  • My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies (1999)


Film Credits


  • Garbo Talks (1984)
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)





  1. Internet Broadway Database
  2. U.S. Social Security Administration: Social Security Death Index, Master File
  3. Dorothy Loudon Foundation
  4. Oliver, Myrna.Dorothy Loudon, 70; Stage Actress Was ‘Miss Hannigan’”, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2003
  5. Simonson, Robert.“Memorial Service for Dorothy Loudon to Be Held Nov. 20″,, November 19, 2003
  6. Wilmeth, Don B. and Jacobs, Leonard. The Cambridge Guide to American Theatre (2007), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-83538-0, p. 404
  8. O’Connor, John. “TV:The Tony Awards, With Gershwin Tribute”, New York Times, June 7, 1983, p.C8
  9. O’Connor, John. “The 38th Tony Awards”, New York Times, June 5, 1984, p.C17
  10. Sterritt, David. Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), Theater Reviews, March 26, 1980, Pg. 23


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