“She departed then and the lights went out” [NAVA]
This was a difficult week for fans of the theater, as two individuals associated with Baker Street passed away: Jerome Coopersmith and Inga Swenson.
Baker Street was a 1965 musical with a book by Jerome Coopersmith and music and lyrics by Marian Grudeff and Raymond Jessel. It starred Fritz Weaver as Sherlock Holmes, Martin Gabel as Professor Moriarty, Inga Swensen as Irene Adler, and Peter Sallis as Dr. Watson.
We interviewed Fritz Weaver for Episode 26: A Musical Stroll Down Baker Street.
Baker Street was a huge hit at the time, garnering three Tony nominations for Best Author - (Jerome Coopersmith), Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Inga Swenson), and Best Costume Design (Motley). It won one Tony for Best Scenic Design (Oliver Smith).
It was based on three Sherlock Holmes Stories: "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Final Problem," and "The Empty House," and was set in 1897, amid Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Sadly, this week we learned that both Jerome Coopersmith and Inga Swenson passed away just one week apart.
Jerome Coopersmith (1925–2023)
Jerome Coopersmith passed away on July 21 at the age of 97 in Rochester, NY. He was a prolific and award-winning writer, having penned some more then 100 projects, including 30 episodes of Hawaii Five-O, and a number of other shows including The Streets of San Francisco, The Night Before Christmas, and The Gabby Hayes Show.
But to Sherlockians, he'll be best remembered for Baker Street, which was only his second theatrical work. It was produced on Broadway by Alexander H. Cohen, directed by Harold Prince, and appeared at the
Coopersmith was a member of the Dramatists Guild, Mystery Writers of America, and a past officer of the Writers Guild of America, East.
He was also a World War II veteran, serving in the United States Army, 94th Infantry Division from 1943-1945. He was the recipient of a Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and European Theater of Operations Medal with three battle stars.
And in 2019, at age 94, like Sherlock Holmes, he was honored with the highest distinction of Chevalier, or Knight, in the National Order of the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his service to France in World War II.
|Jerome Coopersmith at the 2014 BSI Weekend (credit: self)|
Inga Swenson (1932–2023)
Inga Swenson passed away on July 28 in California. She was nominated twice for a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical — once for Baker Street, as noted above, and once for 110 in the Shade.
She made her stage debut in 1949 in Peg O' My Heart at the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She had significant experience on stage before Baker Street, having made her Broadway debut in 1956, and continued her stage presence for many years before retiring in 1998.
Swenson got her training at the drama department of Northwestern and was a lyric soprano, which served her well in the first half of her career. But she was probably most widely known to television audiences for her role as Gretchen Kraus in the sitcom Benson, which ran on ABC Television from 1979–1986.
Swenson married sound engineer Lowell Harris in 1953 and by all accounts of Sherlockians in Southern California, they were simply a lovely couple and wonderful hosts.
We mourn the loss of these two last connections to Baker Street.