"Professor Kittredge of Harvard influenced my whole life; he was the greatest teacher I ever had," said Monty Woolley last night after his performance in "The Man Who Came to Dinner" at the Colonial Theatre.
The star of the current Kaufman and Hart comedy studied under George Lyman Kittredge, Gurney Professor of English Literature, Emerlins, when he was working for his M.A. degree from Harvard in 1913. He has never considered any other profession but the stage since then, he said.
Describing his role of Sheridan White-side as "an actor's dream," Woolley said however that the part "may resemble Alexander Woolcott, but is certainly not a portrait of him." He considers that the play has been much improved since Kaufman and Hart did the third act over: "The audience expects laughs all the way through, and now they get them."
Acting is a comparatively new experience for him; since college he has spent most of his time directing, Woolley remarked. Ten years ago he directed Cole Porter's "Fifty Million Frenchmen" in Boston. Cole Porter was his best friend at Yale, and Bob Benchley his side-kick while at Harvard.
His first movie, two years ago, was "Live, Love, and Learn," made with Benchley, Robert Montgomery, and Rosalind Russell. "Benchley fell flat on his face and lay there dead drunk when he first came in, and when I entered, my trousers fell down and Montgomery drenched me with a bucket of water," recalled Woolley.
Another movie in which he "had lots of fun" was "Midnight", with Claudette Colbezi, in which he took the part of a judge. Comedy suits him fine, he said, and though the really great parts are tragic ones, comedy ordinarily requires more finesse and timing, he declared.