‘Fiorello!’ star Hanley dies

Actress made Broadway debut in 'Annie'

Ellen Hanley, a musical-theater performer best-known for playing New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s first wife in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fiorello!” died Feb. 12 in Norwalk, Conn. of a stroke after a long battle with cancer. She was 80.

The actress, born in Lorain, Ohio, made her Broadway debut in “Annie Get Your Gun,” starring Ethel Merman, in 1946. The following year she appeared as Clothilde Pfefferkorn in “Barefoot Boy With Cheek,” a zany collegiate musical featuring Nancy Walker and Red Buttons and written by Max Shulman.

In the 1952 revue, “Two’s Company,” which starred Bette Davis, Hanley introduced the Vernon Duke-Ogden Nash song “Roundabout.”

Hanley also was in the cast of the 1959 musical, “First Impressions,” based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” During the show’s run, she replaced leading lady Polly Bergen as Austen’s spirited heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. That same year, she appeared in “Fiorello!” — the hit Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical about the well-known mayor of New York, which ran for nearly 800 performances.

In 1963, Hanley starred in a successful off-Broadway revival of “The Boys From Syracuse,” a Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart musical based on Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.”

During the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Hanley toured extensively in summer theater shows in vacation areas. She also was a regular performer in Julius Monk’s celebrated topical revues in the 1950s at such places as Upstairs at the Downstairs.

She is survived by a daughter; a son; a sister; a brother, the playwright William Hanley; and several grandchildren.

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