March 28, 2023

Theatre critic Mel Gussow’s legendary interviews available online


For 35 years Mel Gussow was a theater and film critic for The New York Times, writing the first draft of at least one part performance history during the 1970s to the 1990s.

Gussow also penned eight books, many of them extended conversations with playwrights Samuel Beckett, David Hare, Arthur Miller and Tom Stoppard. During the course of his career, Gussow conducted thousands of hours of interviews, either one-on-one or in front of an audience.

Now, UT’s Harry Ransom Center, which holds Gussow’s archive, has digitized a selection of the nearly 1,000 interviews in the collection and made them available online. They can be accessed at: Mel Gussow Interview Recordings.

The interviews offer candid glimpses into towering figures of theater and film including Miller, Hare, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tennessee Williams, Ellen Burstyn and Edward Albee.

In an interview with Katherine Hepburn, we hear her offer tea to Gussow and while she serves, Hepburn mentions that originally she had been set to star in the film “National Velvet” but production plans were shelved. By the time the film was reconsidered years later, she had aged out of the lead role. A teenage Elizabeth Taylor starred in the 1944 film.

Later, Hepburn rails against what she considers the improper decency of 1970s films and theater. “We must maintain a certain standard,” she says, going on to label the movied “Last Tango in Paris” as “degenerate and offensive” and “perverse.”

“It’s a bore,” she concludes of sexually explicit films in general. “That’s the worst part of it.”

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