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Susan Strasberg as Anne Frank

Lawrence Bush
July 10, 2017

Susan Strasberg, who created the role of Anne Frank on Broadway and became the youngest actor to be featured on a Broadway theater marquee as a result, was featured on the cover of Life Magazine on this date in 1955. Born in New York in 1938, she was the daughter of famed acting coach Lee Strasberg. She debuted in Diary of Anne Frank in 1955 and was nominated for a Tony. After that, she had a fairly minor career on stage and in film and television shows until her early death from cancer in 1999. Yet her “naturalness and an authority that belied her limited theatrical experience” made her “an astonishing success in her first major role,” writes Mel Gussow in the New York Times, where Brooks Atkinson characterized her as ”a slender, enchanting young lady with a heart-shaped face, a pair of burning eyes and the soul of an actress.” The play “was an enormous hit,” continues Gussow, “running for two years and winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the New York Drama Critics award and Tony Award for best play. Within the year, she was a certified Broadway star, with her name above the title on the Cort.” Strasberg wrote two memoirs, one about her dear friend Marilyn Monroe, and was working on a third, Confessions of a New Age Heretic, when she died.

“It become totally untenable to me that after acting for 25 years -- I’ve played Juliet, Cleopatra and Anne Frank -- there I was, sitting in Hollywood, just waiting for somebody to want me.” --Susan Strasberg

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.