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Jill Haworth: Her Life Was a Cabaret

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Pretty blonde British lass Jill Haworth sadly passed away last year on January 3, 2011. But the actress lives on as the original Sally Bowles in the hit Broadway musical Cabaret with many photos by Friedman-Abeles of her in this monumental show at The New York Public Library.Jill Haworth, Bert Convy (sitting at right), and company in Cabaret, Digital ID ps_the_2969, New York Public LibraryJill Haworth, Bert Convy (sitting at right), and company in Cabaret, Digital ID ps_the_2969, New York Public Library

When the 1998 revival of Cabaret with Natasha Richardson and Alan Cumming opened on Broadway, the producers rudely snubbed Haworth. "Two years, four months, and ten days," recited Jill. "That's how long I played Sally on Broadway. You would think that would have earned me an invite to the opening." Maybe they couldn't find you, it was suggested. "Hell, I've been living in the same apartment since 1965," she exclaimed.

That was Jill — saucy and sassy and one of the best interviews I ever conducted. Petite and lovely with a wonderfully throaty voice, Jill Haworth hailed from Sussex, England. She was discovered by producer/director Otto Preminger while on an international hunt to find the right unknown to bring to life the ill-fated Jewish girl who journeys to Israel in Exodus (1960). Jill gave an impressive tender performance, receiving a Golden Globe nomination, and began a romance that morphed into a long friendship with her co-star, Sal Mineo.

She did three forgettable films overseas and two more distinguished epics with Preminger, The Cardinal (1963), playing a novitiate nun and In Harm's Way (1965) as a military woman who commits suicide after being raped by her superior officer (Kirk Douglas) in the days after Pearl Harbor. While working in England on a low-budget horror movie called It! with Roddy McDowall, she met director Hal Prince. He asked her if she could sing and she responded, "Louder than Merman."

Jill flew to New York to audition for the role of the deliciously decadent Sally Bowles in Cabaret, was eventually cast (despite composers John Kander and Fred Ebb who were pushing Liza Minnelli), and spent three grueling months in Boston tryouts. Her untrained voice was strained from rehearsing all day and performing at night, and she endured extensive changes in the show. "My only disappointment was when they cut my favorite song "I Don't Care Much." It was supposed to be my opening number." Instead it is "Don't Tell Mama" a lively song still associated with Jill since it was not in the movie.

Jack Gilford, Jill Haworth, John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joel Grey during rehearsal for Cabaret, Digital ID ps_the_cd44_670, New York Public LibraryJack Gilford, Jill Haworth, John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joel Grey during rehearsal for Cabaret, Digital ID ps_the_cd44_670, New York Public Library"Hal Prince, the composers, and the whole cast were wonderful," Jill exclaimed. "But my favorite was Lotte Lenya. When I heard that I would be working with her, I was terrified. I thought she would be this tough German woman, like the part she played in From Russia with Love. She was great, and we became very good friends."

Jill Haworth and Bert Convy in Cabaret, Digital ID ps_the_cd16_231, New York Public LibraryJill Haworth and Bert Convy in Cabaret, Digital ID ps_the_cd16_231, New York Public LibraryWhen asked if she thought she ever had a shot at doing the film version of Cabaret, Jill laughed and said, "Of course not! It was well known that the composers always wanted Liza, but Hal Prince wanted someone British. So I did it on Broadway, and she did the movie. She's still doing the movie!" That was Jill — forever with the quick-witted quip.