Broadway belter and comedienne Dorothy Loudon (b. Boston, MA, September 17, 1933; d. New York City, November 15, 2003) appeared in a wide range of musical and non-musical stage comedies from the 1960s through the late 1980s. She is best remembered for her portrayal of the evil orphanage head, Miss Hannigan, in the musical Annie (“Little Girls,” “Easy Street”), for which she won the Best Actress Tony Award® and Drama Desk Award in 1977. Although her career was spotty and many of the shows she appeared in were flops, she had two more Drama Desk wins (1969, 1984) and two more Tony® nominations (1969, 1979). On television, she was nominated for a Golden Globe® for an appearance on The Garry Moore Show in 1963, and entertained on five Annual Tony Award® Shows with her bold and unforgettable song-and-ad-lib routines.
Growing up in Indianapolis and Claremont, NH, Dorothy Loudon began singing and tap-dancing as a child. Deciding that dancing demanded too much discipline, she went to Syracuse University on a drama scholarship, but left after a short time to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. After a few inconsequential appearances on television in the ’50s, she began to attract national attention in 1961 on The Dinah Shore Show and Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town.
In 1962, after a stage debut in The World of Jules Feiffer, she arrived on Broadway in the revue Nowhere to Go But Up. The show lasted barely a week, but Dorothy Loudon won a Theatre World Award and plenty of good notices. Following her award-nominated performance on The Garry Moore Show, she appeared on Jack Paar (1965), and replaced Carol Burnett on The Dean Martin Show (1966). Subsequent Broadway gigs Noel Coward’s Sweet Potato (1968), The Fig Leaves Are Falling (1969), and Three Men on a Horse (1969) were of short duration, but the latter two won Drama Desk Awards for Loudon.
Dorothy Loudon married musician and composer Norman Paris in 1971. Her theatrical career slowed, her few roles including one in the ill-fated Lolita, My Love (1971), which closed out-of-town, and Edith in a revival of Clare Booth Luce’s The Women (1973). But the musical Annie of 1977 put Loudon back on top of the heap; the show won eight Tony Awards® (including Best Musical) and three more nominations, and seven Drama Desk Awards. Sadly, her husband died during the run, and she left the show shortly thereafter.
But in 1978 Loudon was back on Broadway, winning her third Tony® nomination for Ballroom, which lasted for only 116 performances but won many awards. The next year she had her own television sitcom series, Dorothy, playing a former Broadway star who teaches at a girl’s school in Connecticut. She then took over Angela Lansbury’s role as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, and in 1981 co-starred with Katharine Hepburn in the (non-musical) West Side Waltz. Another non-singing comic part in Noises Off in 1983 won her her second Drama Desk Award. Jerry’s Girls in 1985 was essentially Dorothy Loudon’s farewell to Broadway, although she did appear nine years later with three other comics in a few performances of Comedy Tonight.
Loudon had two feature films to her credit, Garbo Talks (1984) with Anne Bancroft, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997). She sang in the 1993 Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall, and in My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies (1999) both of which were shown on television.
Dorothy Loudon died of cancer and is buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York. She left two stepchildren.