Tuesday, April 15, 2008

RIP: Madeline Lee Gilford, 1923-2008

As per Penny Landau:

Madeline Lee Gilford, the actress & producer who was married to actor Jack Gilford for 40 years, died in her sleep on Monday, April 14, in her Greenwich Village apartment at the age of 84.

Actress Madeline Lee met Jack Gilford at a political meeting in 1947. Both were committed to left-wing causes—a fact that would later hurt them during the McCarthy era. They were married in 1949 & remained together until Jack Gilford's death in 1990. She is survived by their three children, Lisa, Joe & Sam, as well as their grandchildren, Molly, Max & Jake.

Mrs. Gilford's parents were both active socialists. Born in the Bronx in 1923, she was a child actress beginning at the age of three. She performed on radio & shared the stage with Ethel Barrymore in the 1944 play Embezzled Heaven. She also assisted lyricist E.Y. (Yip) Harburg on many productions, including the musical Jamaica.

Both Gilfords were blacklisted for much of the 1950s; Mrs. Gilford one of those named by Jerome Robbins in his testimony before HUAC. Thereafter, the couple had difficulty finding work, relying on loans from friends & government checks for much of their income. "We raised three children on unemployment insurance," she once said.

"The F.B.I. followed me the first Tuesday of every month," she told the New York Times. "How did I know it? The superintendent had a son in jail for armed robbery & she hated the F.B.I. So she considered us in trouble the same way she was. She would tell us that they would come on the first Tuesday: 'They've been here. They wanted to look in your garbage. They wanted to look at the mail that has been thrown out.'"

In the 1980s, she turned to casting & producing on Broadway, co-producing The World of Sholom Aleichim, starring her husband & the musical Rags.

She co-authored the memoir 170 Years in Show Business with Kate Mostel (Zero's wife), which chronicled the lives of the two couples, who were friendly with one another; Jack & Zero appeared on stage together several times.

Mrs. Gilford remained busy throughout her last decades, playing roles on TV in Law & Order & in films such as The Old Feeling, The Bird Cage, Cocoon: The Return, The Savages & the yet-to-be-released Uncertainty and Sex and the City.

In 2007, she was presented with the first annual Madeline Gilford Award "for her dedication and tireless contributions to the theatre" by Musical Mondays Theatre Lab.

Mrs. Gilford's funeral will be held on Thursday, April 17, 2008, at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street (at Amsterdam Ave.), at 11:15am.

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