Family & Companions
A versatile, veteran stage actress with eniviable energy, an accomplished singing voice and impeccible comedic timing, Dorothy Loudon earned a Tony for the Broadway role of Miss Hannigan, creating as the rancorous orphanage headmistress in "Annie."
Born in Boston and reared in Indianapolis and in Claremont, N.H., Loudon was taught to sing by her mother, a department store pianist. She took piano and dance lessons and, with her work in high school productions, earned a drama scholarship to Syracuse University. Without graduating, she moved on to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Loudon began singing in clubs, and in 1954 the owner of the Ruban Bleu, recognizing her comedic talent, suggested she satirize the chanteuse style instead of merely singing torch songs. The entertainer gained experience as a singer and comedian in nightclubs from New York's Blue Angel to Las Vegas' Flamingo to Los Angeles' Crescendo on the Sunset Strip. The act quickly caught on, as she caricatured singers from Ella Fitzgerald to Shirley Temple. A major recording, "Dorothy Loudon at the Blue Angel" followed, along with several guest appearances on musical variety television shows.
In 1962, Loudon made her Broadway debut in the musical "Nowhere to Go But Up," which folded in two weeks. Nevertheless, her performance opposite Martin Balsam earned her Theatre World's selection as the season's most promising newcomer. That same year she followed fellow stage sensation Carol Burnett to TV's "The Garry Moore Show" to rave reviews; she remained a regular until 1964. In 1969 she was first nominated for a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for her performance in "The Fig Leaves Are Falling," despite the fact the production closed after only four performances. Another Drama Desk Award came to her for her work in the 1969 revival of "Three Men on a Horse," which closed after 100 performances.
Cast in the 1977 "Annie" production by producer Mike Nichols, an old friend from club days, Loudon was at first reluctant to take on the role of harridan Aggie Hannigan. "There's an old saying, 'Never be in a show with kids, dogs or an Irish tenor,' and this show had all three," she told the New York Times. Worried that headmistress Hannigan was humorless, Loudon partially rewrote the part, adding sympathy and laughs. Loudon earned not only the Tony for "Annie," but also a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics' Circle Award for best performance in a musical. To her great disappointment, lost the Hannigan role to Carol Burnett in the 1982 motion picture version of "Annie."
She earned a short-lived CBS television show, "Dorothy," in the summer of 1979, featuring her as a divorced showgirl teaching at a girls school. And after "Annie," Loudon continued to rack up stage triumphs: In 1979 she earned a Tony nomination for "Ballroom," which folded after four months; She succeeded Angela Lansbury in "Sweeney Todd" in 1980; starred opposite her idol Katharine Hepburn in "West Side Waltz" in 1981 and headlined in the slapstick British farce "Noises Off" in 1983. There were disappointments as well: Her show-stopping performance as Miss Hannigan also earned her a leading role in the ill-fated 1990 sequel, "Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge," which closed at Washington's Kennedy Center, never reaching Broadway. Few film roles materialized, but she did have parts in "Garbo Talks" (1984) and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (1997).
Loudon was married to the Emmy Award-winning composer Norman Paris from 1971 until his death in 1977. Her battle with cancer forced her to withdraw from a 2002 Broadway revival of "Dinner at Eight" prior to her death in 2003.