35 – Another Dispatch from this Long Winded Lady

Returning from the Hotel Edison and that last Abbey Tour, Aideen stubbornly announced to her sister:

“I shall take a room somewhere in Dublin if Daddy wishes to keep up his attitude towards me.”

Now publicly in a relationship with a married man, she couldn’t face his wrath and go back to Hollybank Avenue. But she had neither the money nor, I imagine, the confidence to be living on her own in Dublin. Instead, she moved between friends. Anne Yeats (daughter of W.B.) took her to their holiday home in Sligo and Hugh Hunt let her stay in his cottage in Malahide with scenic designer Tania Moseiwitch while he was in the UK. That ended badly; Hunt’s housekeeper caused a scene over two young women living without a chaperone. (There was some question about whether they’d been to early mass or not, from what I remember.) Out of options in Dublin, she took refuge with her mother’s family in Cobh. (Remember I went there? You can read about that here: Cobh Visit)

At some point, Aideen was offered a role in England in a play directed by Hugh Hunt. She had been holding out, waiting to hear about prospects in New York for Kindred. Under pressure, she sent a telegram to American producer Eddie Choate, asking his advice. His note back read:

Their production definite. Mine Not. You make decision. Best Eddie.

There really was no decision to make – Aideen was always going to follow Boss. She trusted Choate implicitly, and he was to prove a good friend to her when she refused Hunt’s offer and set about finding her fare to get to New York. Plus, Aideen had high hopes when she heard Choate was talking to Kay Swift about finance, declaring her a “grand person” and insisting, “I know she will [help] if she can.”

So, she came back. Not to the Hotel Edison but to a studio apartment building in the Whitby Building, on East 43rd Street. She frequently walks past the lights of the Edison Ballroom, where she’d danced the nights away, but this time around there is no Frolie and no Abbey tab.

Edison Ballroom

Equity contracts reveal that Aideen was earning $150 a week to appear in Kindred, when she was reunited with Arthur. After that flopped, her salary decreased to $100 a week for her part in Juno and The Paycock and then to $50 a week for appearing in Tanyard Street.

Arthur had been hospitalized for TB. It’s a long, hard walk from the theatre district up to Lennox Hill hospital, on the Upper East Side. I know because I did it yesterday, as temperatures here dipped to minus seven degrees Celsius. If Aideen ever made that trek with Kay, the walk would bring them close to her husband and children on 70th Street. But he wasn’t there for too long; the doctors suggested Californian sunshine and Barry Fitzgerald decided to drive him cross country. He wasn’t known for his safe and calm driving, but travelling by car they could stop off regularly for doctors to treat his lungs. {Thanks to Adrian for this nugget.}

Aideen stayed behind, with Eddie and his wife Iris. She had been offered a new role in a new Terence Rattigan play and clung to it, needing the role for retain her Visa.

In April 1940, there was a small note in the theatre column of the New York Times:

Oscar Homolka will be starring in ‘Grey Farm’. Aideen O’Connor has withdrawn from the cast, the third actor to do so. Maria Temple has assumed the role.


Hudson Theatre

As usual, I have no record of Aideen’s thoughts or emotions about what happened during rehearsals in the Hudson Theatre (Above). I do know that in Hollywood, Arthur got a telephone call. The connection was bad; Aideen was crying. It was impossible to figure out what had happened.

Eddie Choate wrote to him:

Aideen […] will give you all the details of how Cooper railroaded her out of his show. [ … ] when Cooper refused to pay Aideen off, the new director and Homolka simply decided that they would make it so uncomfortable for her that she would leave of her own accord.

They made things so uncomfortable for her that she had to leave. Aideen was a tough cookie, but they beat her.

She was unlucky, already fragile from the strain of hearing about Frolie’s death and Arthur’s illness?

Or was her drinking out of control already? Was she turning up to rehearsals late or squiffy?

In fact, the producers not only refused to pay Aideen the money she believed she was entitled to for rehearsals, but they claimed she owed them over two hundred dollars for breaking her contract. Heartbroken and broke, Aideen packed all her belongings into two small cases and headed for Grand Central Terminal. I’m about to make the same journey, from the Whitby to Grand Central …

By the way, a very nice porter in the Edison Hotel yesterday figured out where the roof garden would have been and let me up to the 22nd floor Higgins spoke of, which is currently mainly a construction site. I watched the sun go down there. The photo isn’t much, but it will always make me think of Higgins and smile.

Roof Garden Sunset
Roof Garden Sunset


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *