Logan was a man of the theatre. President of the drama group at Princeton, he formed a university company of actors that included Henry Fonda, James Stewart, and Margaret Sullavan. In the 1930s he visited Stanislavsky in Moscow, produced in London, and began a Broadway career as producer that included Annie Get Your Gun. Happy Birthday. John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, Charley’s Aunt, South Pacific, and Fanny. In fact, he was coauthor of Mister Roberts, South Pacific, and Fanny.
His involvement in movies was principally as the conveyor of reliable theatrical packages to the screen, although Camelot did not keep up its stage success as a movie. Until Picnic, he had only dabbled in films, working on the dialogue for two Charles Boyer movies, The Garden of Allah (36, Richard Boleslavsky) and History Is Made at Night (37, Frank Borzage). Picnic was therefore something of a shock: a stage play (by William Inge) given cinematic life and authentic rural atmosphere, with a sense of color and design, a better-than-average William Holden, and a quartet of exceptional female performances—Rosalind Russell, Betty Field, Susan Strasberg, and Kim Novak looking like confectioners custard.
There is no sham about Picnic: it wears well, especially the slumberous nocturnal dancing sequence, which is better than most of Logan’s musical set pieces. Apart from that, he did a good comedy, Tall Stonj, early indication of Jane Fonda’s vitality. And in Bus Stop (also from Inge) he coaxed the very best out of Marilyn Monroe, played fair by the provincial charm of the story, and helped Marilyn to make the “Black Magic” routine both excruciating and endearing.
All too often, however, Logan was overwhelmed by theatrical originals. The films of South Pacific and Paint Your Wagon are dismal, inert versions of great shows. They are so depressing that they offer an oblique reminder that Logan was, for most of his life, a famous depressive.
Born October 5, 1908
Died July 12, 1988