September 7, 2006
I’ve mentioned before a portion of my exciting job with the Players is part historian. There are times I can be found rummaging through our archives for a variety of reasons. Maybe a director wants to see show photos of a play we have done before. Or, perhaps I’m just curious to see who can call themselves a Peninsula Player.
On slow days in the office I have the interns work on a project. Archiving our programs and show photos is quite a task, especially to try and identify 71 years of shows, photos, actors, cast, crews and so forth.
So many actors have learned and honed their craft in the-theatre-in-a-garden that at times it seems almost unfathomable to me. Where did they come from? What roles did they play while they were here? Where did they go when they left? How long did they stay in the theatre business?
Curiosity gets to me at times and I have to go hunting for answers. Today I looked into 1935 and hunted among the first company members. Amongst our founders Caroline and Richard Fisher I found the name Marden McBroom. What a neat name, huh? I thought so. So I kept looking.
I found him in our company roles for 1935 and 1939. It was around this time I learned Hollywood had changed Marden’s name to David Bruce. Ah, well. It worked for Cary Grant and John Wayne, so why not David Bruce. Friends still called him Andy.
I can find him in our company roles for 1935 as Simon Bliss in “Hay Fever” and Judge Brack in “Hedda Gabler.” He was Jonathan Harcker in 1939’s “Dracula” and back again for the 1946 season as Eloyt Chase in “Private Lives” and Stevens in 1957’s production of “Inherit the Wind.” I began to wonder, where did he go? Hollywood was the answer!
I’ve learned Andy grew up in Kankakee, Ill., and enrolled in Northwestern University to study law in 1934, but became enthralled with theater after playing the tile role in “Henry V” and switched his major to drama. He must have caught Caroline Fisher’s eye at some point while in Chicago and he became a member of the first acting company in 1935.
He graduated in 1937 and worked in various theaters before heading to New York where he met Julie Bishop, known in Hollywood as Jacqueline Wells. Upon her return to Hollywood she wrote Andy to invite him to head her way and she’d introduce him around. Off he went and late in 1939 David Bruce signed a contract with Warner Bros., was told to put on some weight and in a few months he was in the 1940 Errol Flynn film, “The Sea Hawk.”
When America went to war, David got a release from Warner, trained in the Naval Air Force before a childhood medical condition was discovered and he was given his release. He returned to Hollywood and sought work as a freelance player. He obtained a part in “Flying Tigers” got an interview with Universal and was signed to a contract in 1942 and made the films “Honeymoon Lodge” with June Vincent and “How’s About It” with the Andrew Sisters. Others soon followed: “Salome, Where She Danced,” “Ladies Courageous,” “She’s For Me,” “Calling Dr. Death,” and “The Mad Ghoul.” While in California he re-met his college acting professor, Cynthia Sory. They started dating, married and had a daughter, Amanda. Amanda is a working actress and composer in Hollywood and composed the title song to the movie, “The Rose” made famous by Bette Midler.
Then the war was over and Hollywood was flooded with the male stars that had been away at war. Despite Errol Flynn’s efforts to get him the part of Count D’Orsini in “The Adventures of Don Juan” leading roles in film didn’t seem to come his way. So off to stage and television he went, onto a number of shows including “The Cisco Kid,” “Wild Bill Hickok” and “Jungle Jim.” He left acting to join Palplato productions as a copywriter and eventually became an advertising executive and passed away in 1976.
David Bruce/Marden McBroom is just one of many artists who have treaded the boards at Peninsula Players. And even after the thrill of making movies, he was drawn back to the serene shores of Door County to work on his craft, as many Players are.
Peninsula Players is a theatre for the working actor. A place for talented actors to gather, become a member of a company. They work together and they learn from each other. I’ve seen this in action when younger performers are cast to work with Greg Vinkler, Bob Thompson, Carmen Roman, Tom Mula or other seasoned veterans of the stage.
And what a chestnut these young and seasoned actors have to work with over the next few weeks, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.” For tickets visit our website at peninsulaplayers.com or call the box office at 920-868-3287. Perhaps I’ll see you by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine.
Audra Baakari Boyle is the Peninsula Players Business Manager.