When, in 2002, the one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty moved to Broadway from the Public Theater, Marc Peyser, writing for Newsweek, noted that it’d “acquired the credit ‘Constructed by John Lahr. Reconstructed by Elaine Stritch.’ ‘The reconstruction means I had the last say,’ she says. ‘Damn right I did.'”
Stritch passed away on Thursday, and the following day, John Lahr wrote for the New Yorker: “Elaine Stritch’s death, at the age of 89, marks the end of an era—the end of old-school, succeed-or-die, knock-’em-dead, Broadway show-biz. She knew better than anyone around how to work an audience, how to tell a story, how to sell a song. Did anyone sing Sondheim better? Or Coward? She carried her baggage onstage and made a swaggering show of her gutsy survival. ‘Elaine Stritch,’ the fast-talking, loosey-goosey broad was her greatest role.”
In the New York Times, Bruce Weber and Robert Berkvist note that “Ms. Stritch’s career began in the 1940s and spanned almost 70 years. She made her fair share of appearances in movies, including Woody Allen’s September (1987) and Small Time Crooks (2000), and on television; well into her 80s, she had a recurring role on the NBC comedy 30 Rock as the domineering mother of the television executive played by Alec Baldwin.”
Woody Allen, talking to Marlow Stern in the Daily Beast: “She was one of those people like Maureen Stapleton that I could insult and make the most sarcastic remarks to and she would always top me; she would always shoot back a line that was better than mine and nail me. I never tired of it, if I would meet her on the street, work with her in movies, or go to dinner with her, forever teasing her and forever being sarcastic with her—just merciless to her—and she would always laugh hysterically at what I was saying, and then instantly come back with a line better than mine. She was so great. I was crazy about her.”
In 1982, Tennessee Williams told James Grissom: “She strikes me as intrinsically honest, and absolutely unafraid of her talent. She seems to just ride its back to whatever destination it has planned for her, and I imagine she’s scared to death a lot of times, but she’s a trouper and she laughs a lot while she’s soiling her panties and thinking of an escape.”
In February, David Ehrenstein reviewed the documentary Elaine Strich: Shoot Me here in Keyframe: “She knows she has amassed enough achievements in theater, film and cabaret that she won’t be forgotten. But through this film what she wants us to remember is how Elaine Stritch faced life and death. And with the help of accompanist Rob Bowman and filmmaker Chiemi Karasawa she does so in the highest and grandest of style.”
For more on Stritch, see Sean O’Neal‘s remembrance at the AV Club.
Update, 7/21: James Grissom met Stritch more than a few times and interviewed her, and he’s posted a marvelous remembrance.