Anderson Lawler (1902-1959), a biography (Page 2)

by Will Johnson, Professional Genealogist

The only detailed biography of Anderson Lawler, recently most well-known as the lover of Gary Cooper. Anderson Lawler, a stage actor, was put under contract and he appeared in bit parts in many movies. Later he became a manager, talent scout, and then a producer. He was transferred to New York City along with Lee Strasberg in the late 40s producing some plays.


This is the only known comprehensive biography of Anderson Lawler in existence.  All other biographies of Anderson Lawler are either quite tiny, or just snippets of his impact on others at some particular point in their lives, without giving a comprehensive view of his life.  This biography I hope will correct that.

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This article by Will Johnson,, Professional Genealogist
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved.

This Knol is part of my series: "Entertainment Biographies"

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In Mar 1931, the New York Times is reporting that "Anderson Lawler" will be in the cast of the play "Desperate Measures" which will begin a tryout opening in Jackson Heights, [New York].

In his book "Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life", author Stephen Michael Shearer, provides us here with a bibliography of his sources on the Cooper-Lawler affair.  And gives us a documentation clue when he states there that "Lawler frequently stayed at the Cooper house at 7511 Franklin Avenue while Cooper's parents were away.

Anderson Lawler in "Girls About Town" (1931)
When Cooper eventually took his own apartment on Argyle Avenue, Anderson casually moved in.... PN [Patricia Neal - wj] confirmed in conversation with SMS [the author -wj] that she knew of this relationship." Apparently 1929 is the crucial year here in figuring out the exact detailed timeline to see if it's possible that the reports of Lawler's involvement with Cooper have any evidence.  Certainly we've seen that they hung-out together at least once, since Dorothy Herzog reported them together, as I've already reported above.

In Oct 1931, we see Lawler's mention in the cast of George Cukor's "Girls About Town" (1931) : "the Paramount expose of big-time gold-digging among the haute monde of New York."  In this film he plays the husband of Kay Francis who is on the verge of cuckolding him with Joel McCrea.  I've just discovered that the film "Girls About Town" exists in full-length on YouTube, so I'll be compiling it soon into my article 1930's Movies on YouTube.  In Feb 1932, the NYT is reporting that the play "Shining Blackness" will open at the Mason Theater in Los Angeles and Anderson Lawler will be in the cast.  In Aug 1932, in Louella Parson's syndicated column we find this : "Polly Moran, who owns the show place of Hollywood film colony there [Laguna Beach], entertained Anderson Lawler, Bill Haines and a group of other friends on a week-end party".

Anderson Lawler in top hat,
with Tallulah Bankhead
Must be from 1933 ?

In Jan 1933, the NYT reports : "The settings for the new play, 'Forsaking All Others,' in which Tallulah Bankhead will appear will be designed by Donald Oenslager.  Anderson Lawler, Helen Flint and Hale Norcross have been added to the cast of the play, which will begin its tryout tour in Wilmington on Feb 3.  Thence it will go to Washington and Boston before opening on Broadway." Tallulah Bankhead wrote an autobiography and does not mention Lawler, she also states that she was "eight years an exile" when she returned to New York in 1931.  However Lobenthal's biography of Tallulah does mention that Lawler, "... who had been playing a small role, now replaced Douglas Gilmore as Tallulah's errant fiance.... 'Very funny and very dirty', Sam Jaffe recalled. 'He and Bankhead were marvelous friends.'" (Source) If so, it's remarkable that Tallulah herself does not even mention him.

In 1933, Katherine Hepburn biographer Mann is calling Lawler "...a supporting player and popular Hollywood escort".  In Jan 1934, Lawler is mentioned in the cast of the acclaimed film "Beloved" which is there called "a remarkable demonstration of the flexibility of the motion picture".  In Aug 1934, he is mentioned in the cast of "Let's Fall in Love (1934)" starring Ann Southern.  In Mar 1935, he is mentioned in the cast of "Let's Talk It Over" starring Chester Morris, Mae Clarke and Frank Craven.

An interesting long article in the 5 May 1935 New York Times, in discussing the departure of Kay Francis for a trip to France, mentions that her manager is "Anderson Lawler".  Evidently he accompanied her on her trip which is mentioned with annotations in her biography by Kear and Rossman at this link.  They also mention that Andy has a way of exaggerating his own importance and also telling tales that weren't exactly true.  They also mention in passing, that when Andy moved to New York City, he lived on East 52nd Street.  Author Michael Sragow, in his biography of Victor Fleming also has George Cukor distancing himself from the rumours and impugning Lawler's veracity. Lawler apparently figured in the Gable-Haines incident during the filming of "Gone With The Wind", his "wagging tongue" evidently helped to escalate the matter.

On Sep 1935, the New York Times reports that Ina Claire opened at the Belasco theater in "Ode to Liberty" and in the cast was Anderson Lawler.  Nov 1935 as Anderson "Lawlor" [sic] he was added to the play "The Ragged Edge".  In Jul 1937 (in the NYT), he is listed in the cast in an advertisement for the comedy-drama "Fly Away Baby (1937)", starring Glenda Farrell, and Barton MacLane.  Also apparently in that same year in a film starring Ronald Reagan, Sheila Bromely, and Anderson Lawler called "Accidents Will Happen".  In this film Ronald Reagan plays an insurance adjuster hounded by his shrewish wife (Bromley) and a corrupt claims investigator played by Lawler.  The movie "Back in Circulation" was also released in 1937 and a decent write-up of it, is here.

Lawler also worked as a talent scout, first for Warner Brothers until 1938, then with the Sam Jaffe Agency.  His last movie credit was in 1939 as Allan Fitzhugh in Torchy Blane in Chinatown.  In Dec 1939 we find that : "Anderson Lawler accompanied the Jack Warner's to New York for a holiday."  Evidently he accompanied them on other occasions as well, as I find, in Oct 1938, all three arriving in Southampton on the "Queen Mary".  In Feb 1940 we see that : "Countess Dorothy di Frasso celebrated her birthday with a buffet dinner at her Beverly home."  Some of the guests listed there were : "...Jack Warner, Cary Grant, Ann Warner, Richard Barthelmess, Marlene Dietrich, Eric Remarque, Lili Damiti, the Raoul Walshes, Ria Gable, Reginald Gardiner, the Milton Brens, Anderson Lawler...."  Ria Gable was the prior wife of Clark Gable, they had already been divorced by this date.
Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper
in 1941's "Meet John Doe"

Lawler then became an associate producer for 20th Century-Fox.  In 1945, he was promoted to producer, he is mentioned as such in Aug at this link, where he is apparently working on a picture called there "Lonely Journey" : "Andy tells me...[it] is the story of a soldier suffering from amnesia."  The name was later changed to "Somewhere in the Night".  Lower and Palmer in their biography of Mankiewicz discuss the collaboration with Lawler at this link.

Anderson Lawler produced "Somewhere In The Night" (1946), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring John Hodiak and Nancy Guild.  An article on Nancy Guild appeared at this link in Feb 1946 : "Anderson Lawler producer of Somewhere in the Night wanted Nancy for the picture as soon as he saw the test.  'After seeing it, Nancy's lack of experience didn't matter, ' explained Lawler, who was once Tallulah Bankhead's leading man and who ought to know talent. 'Nancy has that god-given quality the greatest actresses strive for years to attain -- her face is a mirror of her mind.  Whatever she's thinking is reflected in her face as though it were a kaleidoscopic  camera.' "  When the movie was seen in June by New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, he panned it, calling it confused, logically remote and that it inspired complete apathy.

In May 1946 the New York Times at this link, is reporting that : "Anderson Lawler and Lee Strasberg have joined Twentieth Century-Fox's talent department in New York.  Lawler recently produced "Somewhere in the Night" with John Hodiak.  Strasberg is a former director of the Group Theatre and the Theatre Guild."

In May 1947, the New York Times in reporting Fitzroy Davis working on the dramatization of Ursula Parrott's novel "For All Our Lives", mentions that the rights are owned by Anderson Lawler and Lee Strasberg.  A Mar 1949 article in the New York Times states : "You have Anderson Lawler's promise that he is shooting for an August rehearsal date with the musical comedy, "Great To Be Alive," which came into his possession only a fortnight ago".  A month later the New York Times reports : "Mr [William R] Katzell has agreed to co-sponsor "Great To Be Alive" with Anderson Lawler.  To cost $200,000, the Sylvia Regan-Walter Bullock-Abe Ellstein musical is slated to go into rehersal in August and open here in mid-October."

In Sep 1949 Lawler is here being called a "theatrical producer from the Pacific coast". In Oct 1949 this New York Times article states : "Anderson Lawler announced yesterday that he has formed a partnership with Russel Markert to produce "Here Come The Brides," the musical comedy which has a book by Walter Bullock and Sylvia Regan and music by Abe Ellstein.  Plans call for rehersals to start in December preparatory to a New York opening in March.  This is the same opus that was once called "Great To Be Alive".  Mr Lawler obtained an option on the musical last spring, and during the summer the authors have been polishing it up and adding new songs."  And then in November this article : "...Mr [Vinton] Freedley's newest musical venture is to be "Great To Be Alive." His associates in the project will be Anderson Lawler and Russel Markert... [who] apparently decided to let an experienced hand like Mr Freedley serve as pilot."  A few days later "...Robert Milford has been appointed general manager...."  And then a few days later : "Each of the three producers -- Vinton Freedley, Anderson Lawler and Russel Markert -- has agreed to contribute one-third of the $175,000 capitalization, for which there will be no over-call."  In Dec we then see that : "Vinton Freedley has commissioned Stewart Chaney to design the scenery and costumes..."  And then a few days later : "Mary Hunter, who had been announced as the director of "Peter Pan"...[will] handle the staging of "Great To Be Alive".... A copy of the script has been sent to Jack Haley."  (Jack Haley is of course, most well-known today, as the Tin Woodsman in the Wizard of Oz.)

The New York Times makes no mention of Lawler's "Production Associate" credit for Camino Real, but it's mentioned here.  One of the plays which Anderson Lawler produced, "Oh Men, Oh Women", was later made into a movie by 20th Century-Fox. This play was advertised on Oct 1955 at this link.  In Nov 1956 he produced the play "Protective Custody", which began in pre-Broadway tryouts in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  It was scheduled to open at the Belasco on Broadway, but it's closing announcement was made after just one month traveling.  A week or so later, it was announced that friends of the star Faye Emerson, had raised their own money to see the play open at the Ambassador.  It was a short run, after only three performances, it's closing was again announced.

On Oct 1957, the New York Times is running the advertisement, "Lyn Austin and Thomas Noyes, in association with Anderson Lawler, present Nancy Walker, in a new musical comedy Copper and Brass" at the Martin Beck Theatre.  Critic Brooks Atkinson, destroys it, in a column a week later, "unfunny... uninteresting... unlovely... banal and routine."  He gives a nod however to Alice Pearce as "an amusing school principal".  (You will recognize the name Alice Pearce as the first Mrs. Cravitz from the Television series "Bewitched".)

Lawler was the godfather of Susan Strasberg, probably due to his business involvement with her father.  It is then perhaps a bit odd that she mentions him exactly once, in her autobiography, and that, in passing. ("Bittersweet", page 71 hardback version).  Susan states that after her appearance (perhaps her premier) on Broadway, Anderson had given her a piece of family heirloom jewelry as a gift.

Anderson Lawler died of a heart attack on 6 Apr 1959 in New York City. The Anderson Daily Bulletin, 15 Apr 1959 said : "The sudden death of Anderson Lawler, an occasional Broadway producer at Flower-Fifth Ave. Hospital the other day grieved his friends -- and surprised them, too.  There was no chance to pay their respects; his body was taken to Lynchburg, Va. for burial, accompanied by a daughter they never knew he had."  It's possible this "daughter" was Susan Strasberg who would have been 20 or 21 at this time.

Anderson Lawler was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg City, Virginia.  Anderson's mother lived in Lynchberg, at least she did in 1935, so probably this is why this particular place was chosen, and she may in fact be buried next to him.  I don't yet know.

Sources and Further Reading

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