Wednesday, September 10, 2008

'Making The Most of a Maxim': Joanna Pettet and Severn Darden photo spread, 1963

Below, ▼ four black & white shots by award-winning photographer Dan Wynn put an off-kilter spin on four musty old adages in a 'Screen Test' feature that ran originally in the January, 1963 issue of
Show magazine.

The featured players were (then) up-and-coming actors Severn Darden and Joanna Pettet.

(Click on images to ENLARGE in a new window, and to make the most of those maxims)

(Click on images ▲ to ENLARGE in a new window, and to make the most of those maxims)

Here's the text that accompanied those images in 1963:

Miss Pettet was born in London 19 years ago and started taking acting lessons at the age of 14 to overcome shyness. That the treatment was a success is obvious now, five years later, in the spirit and insouciance she has brought before the camera.
More recently she studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, and her credits include theater and TV stints in Canada and a summer at the White Barn Theater in Irwin, Pennsylvania. She is currently playing the ingenue lead in the road company of 'Take Her, She's Mine.'

Mr. Darden hails from Chicago, where he attended the university of the same name and soon became distracted by the provocative activities of the local cabaret theater. He started with the 'Second City' troupe in 1959. He quickly became it's mainstay as well as a rising acting and writing talent in his own right: he is one of the few modern entertainers to do a record on pre-Socratic philosophers-and make it funny.
Lately he has been trying his hand in off-Broadway theater with The Writer's Stage, his most recent appearance as the star of 'P.S.193.'

To furnish the scenario for this month's screen test, Joanna and Severn have uncovered two rare manuscripts from the 1820's entitled 'The American Chesterfield, or 'Way to Wealth, Honour and Distinction' and 'Parlor Amusements and Social Etiquette.'
On these pages we see their own wry 20th Century comments.

Following this magazine appearance, Joanna Pettet would be seen on Broadway in a production of 'Poor Richard', playing opposite Alan Bates and Gene Hackman.
Pettet and Bates were close friends from then on.

Soon after that stage run she was 'discovered' by film director Sidney Lumet, who brought Ms. Pettet into the ensemble cast of 'The Group' in 1966, launching her film career.

Probably it's Joanna Pettet's appearance as Mata Bond in 1967's epic comedy romp/train wreck
'Casino Royale' for which she is most often remembered today, though for some it could be for the several horror films she made during the '70's and '80's, or perhaps her work as a television actress, especially in made-for-TV movies.

IMDb lists 115 film and TV appearances for Severn Darden, running from 1961 to 1989, though it would not be surprising to learn that there were more.

It might be true that Darden (1929 - 1995) is familiar to most people only as 'That Guy'.
- - As in "...Oh, it's that guy. I've seen him lots of times. Like in... oh, what was that thing...?"

Scores of sitcoms and TV dramas of all flavors. A wide variety of films, from most any genre you care to choose.
Often he was cast as a doctor, an academic, or some sort of intellectual, though overall his range of roles was surprisingly varied.

The text from the magazine article mentions Mr. Darden's affiliation with Second City, Chicago's groundbreaking improvisational theater group.

In fact, Darden had also been a member of The Compass Players, the original University of Chicago cabaret revue that ran from
1955 - 1958 and would 'morph' into
Second City in '59.

To read more about Severn Darden's career, click over to a 2007 posting at
Arbogast on Film: 'Too smart for the room'.
It's a glowing remembrance and biographical sketch about a wonderful but
under-appreciated performer.
The piece warranted a nice little follow-up, too.

For a bit more on Severn Darden, see also:

- A 1956 photo of The Compass Players, posted at Shelley Berman's web site. A young and clean shaven Severn sits among fellow cast members including Berman, Barbara Harris, and Mike Nichols and Elaine May.

- You can preview Janet Coleman's book, 'The Compass: The Improvisational Theatre that Revolutionized American Comedy' at Google Book Search

- A transcript of Darden's 1961 'Metaphysics Lecture' from his LP 'The Sound of My Own Voice
(and Other Noises)'.
(When I successfully manage to rescue my record collection from storage, maybe I'll remember to post some audio. Feel free to remind me.)

- A 'famous University of Chicago grads' Severn Darden page (still under construction as of this writing) collects together several other biographical bits & pieces.


Anonymous said...

There is a full-length interview with Severn in my book SOMETHING WONDERFUL RIGHT AWAY, and other people in the book tell other Severn stories. Nice man. And one of the two most original comic minds I've ever encountered (Peter Cook possessed the other one; I got to interview him, too). -- Jeff Sweet

Donna Lethal said...

You got to interview Peter Cook? I'm jealous!

ARBOGAST said...

It's always a pleasure to see some love for Severn Darden. I wish I could give him a hug right now.

Booksteve said...

A co-worker once told me I resembled Severn Darden. He was surprised when I not only knew who he was talking about but took it as a compliment!

Anonymous said...

I would be delighted to have the audio for Darden's "Metaphysics Lecture." I have an old tape recording that has become unlistenable, and the album can no longer be found.

Thanks for the transcript!


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