William Daniels The Actor

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Albert Amundson, A Thousand Clowns

Theater, 1962-1963 | Film, 1965

My character was an uptight social worker, but Herb Gardner who wrote both the original play and the screenplay wrote a speech that gave Albert an extra dimension--a self-awareness that makes him a believable human being and not a caricature. It was a stellar cast including jason Robards, Sandy Dennie, Martin Balsam, Gene Saks, and Barry Gordon. The play was a hit and the film (with Barbara Harris in the role originated by Sandy Dennis) is still being shown on television where it holds up very well.

During rehearsals Jason asked me out for a drink. I had just one, then excused myself and left him at the bar, from which he disappeared from rehearsals for three days. Herb told me, "Billy, you must never leave Jason alone in a bar!" He told me of the night he called Jason's then-wife, Lauren Bacall, to ask where he might have gone during one binge. She suggested a place where truckers drank on the Lower East Side. He asked her what he should do if he found Jason. She said, "Give him a Viking's funeral!"