(Sam Roberts’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/26; via Pam Green.)

After Madeleine Sherwood, a Canadian actress, hitchhiked to New York in 1949, she slept on a stone bench outside the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue for two nights and subsisted on unbuttered rolls from the Automat.

She got a nursing job, but her patient died after 10 days, so she worked as a cigarette girl at the Havana Madrid nightclub on Broadway and modeled coats until, after two and a half years, her agent sent her to the stage director Jed Harris.

“I told him I’d done a TV show about witchcraft,” she recalled, “and he said, ‘You look like a witch.’”

It was a compliment. Harris was recruiting actors for the premiere of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” Ms. Sherwood, who died on April 23 at 93, was cast as Mercy, the colonial servant who falsely accuses neighbors of witchcraft, and understudied Abigail, the minister’s niece whose accusations trigger the Salem trials. She was soon given the role of Abigail and originated it when the play opened on Broadway on Jan. 22, 1953, performing with “fire and skill,” Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times.


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