The phenomenal success of the La Jolla Playhouse made
many Los Angeles based celebrities begin to think about creating
something closer to home. Famed architect William Pereira
decided to act on that and in 1949 after consulting with theater-owner-managers Fanchon and Marco approached the trio of stars in charge of La Jolla
with a proposition. He suggested forming an enlarged group of actors who
interested in establishing a theater in Los Angeles proper. Their ultimate
goal was to build a $2,000,000 theater to operate year round in Beverly Hills, but their immediate
objective was to present actors in plays before Los Angeles audiences.
That trio of stars - Mel Ferrer, Gregory
Peck and Dorothy McGuire - had been toying
with similar ideas and had mounted their version of "Eurydice" (directed and with a
translation by Ferrer) at the Coronet Theater earlier that year, so they
were hardly indifferent to the suggestion. After conferring with several
real estate agencies they formed a partnership with Periera, determined
to bring their success to Los Angeles.
To raise capital toward their building fund they
kicked off their new enterprise with a trio of radio plays for National Public Radio
broadcast over CBS. The first, which aired on Christmas Day 1949, was "The Man
Who Came to Dinner" directed by Mel Ferrer. It starred Charles Boyer,
John Garfield, Jack Benny, Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly, Dorothy McGuire,
Gregory Peck and Rosalind Russell. Most of the players were eager to join
the board and The Actors Company was officially formed.
Their ultimate goal
was to produce plays, of course, and the group's first endeavor was
borrowed directly from La Jolla's 1950 season - "Summer and Smoke" by Tennessee
Williams starring Dorothy McGuire, John Ireland and Una Merkel and
directed by La Jolla resident director James Nielsen. Though widely
promoted with glossy souvenir books as their own creation, the
production was in fact nothing more than a La Jolla play taken on tour.
At the end of
1950 producer Jerry Wald talked RKO chief Peter Rathvon into heading the
enterprise in an attempt to ally
the group to a viable movie company. His chief
officers were Gregory Peck, Mel Ferrer, Rosalind Russell and
Jerry Wald. Plans called for more radio plays, a series of spoken
recordings and six plays a year for a run of at least
six weeks each, with every member of the
star-cluttered board of directors agreeing
to appear in at least a production a year.
Alas, by the end of
1951 it was clear to everyone that Los Angeles - unlike La Jolla - was not ready to
embrace legitimate theater, and the group disbanded.