Dark Shadows Role: Hannah Stokes
Number of episodes: 7, April/May 1970
Episodes: 992, 993, 1003, 1004, 1005, 1013, 1014
Appeared with: Michael Stroka, David Selby, Lara Parker, and others.
Born: January 26, 1916 (disputed); Brooklyn, NY
Died: October 29, 2005, New York City
Movies: For Love or Money (Mrs. Vigushin, 1993, starring Michael J. Fox); Crossing Delancey (Diva). 1988, starring Amy Irving); Firepower (1979, starring Sophia Loren and OJ Simpson).
TV: Guest starred on Law & Order (1994), Play of the Week: The Cherry Orchard (1959).
Theater: Dr. Faustus (1937); Cyrano de Bergerac (1947); Night of the Iguana (understudying Bette Davis, 1961); (the B'way debut of Michael Crawford, and also starring DS dayplayer Camila Ashland, 1967).
Visit to Collinwood: Paula played Hannah Stokes, aunt of twins Alexis and Angelique (both played by Lara Parker) during the 1970PT storyline. She is approached by Bruno (Michael Stroka) to help him prove that the beautiful blonde at Collinwood is actually Angelique and not Alexis, as she claims. She is victimized by Angelique's magic and is full of warnings about how dangerous the witch is. She is also one of the characters who sees the ghost of Dameon Edwards (Jered Holmes).
Bio Highlights: In a career spanning over 70 years, Paula Laurence worked with some of the greatest talents of the stage and screen. She understudied Bette Davis; sang the title song in one of Mary Martin's big hits; starred opposite Orson Welles (playing Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in history); and was such a close friend to legendary playwright Tennessee Williams that he entrusted Paula and her husband with the guardianship of his institutionalized sister, Rose Williams, after his death.
Paula made her New York stage debut in a famous production called Horse Eats Hat, produced and directed by Orson Welles in 1936, as part of President Roosevelt's WPA program. (DS Trivia Note: The star of that show was Hiram Sherman; years later he would go on to work with at least two DS actors on stage: Alexandra Moltke and Louis Edmonds.)
The following year, she played Helen of Troy in Welles' production of Doctor Faustus. (Another DS Trivia Note: In the 1960s, Nancy Barrett got tremendous reviews in a revival of that play, one of her first NY stage appearances which gave a huge boost to her career.)
After those two dramatic performances, she shifted to more comedic roles, appearing in musicals in the late '30s and early '40s. One of Paula's lighter roles was in a musical titled Junior Miss and staged by Moss Hart, to whom she was briefly engaged. Other musicals included Something for the Boys, in which she played a stripper (with the color name Chiquita Hart) and sang a racy number with star Ethel Merman; and One Touch of Venus, starring Mary Martin, in which Paula played a secretary and sang the title song.
During World War II, along with many stars of stage and screen, Paula worked at the Stage Door Canteen, entertaining the troops. According to Playbill Online, years later she said of the experience: "Those of us who could entertain the troops, did; those who couldn't, danced with the servicemen, waited on tables or washed dishes with considerably more skill than the high-priced help which served us at home. We were all performing a needed service and vice-versa, for all these activities were wondrously therapeutic in relieving the guilts we all suffered because our lives were comparatively undisturbed; we weren't flying bombers or being shipped to crematoriums."
She continued to act on stage throughout the 1950s and '60s -- including a job as film star Bette Davis' understudy in the original production of Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana (One Last DS Trivia Note: Grayson Hall was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the film version of Iguana), which was produced by Paula's husband, Charles Bowden.
Many of Paula's off-Broadway performances were at the Westport Country Playhouse, produced and directed by Bowden. (OK...ONE MORE DS Trivia Note: In 1967, Bowden directed Song of the Grasshopper, a major Broadway flop -- with just four performances -- starring one of my very favorite DS dayplayers, Diana Davilla, who played Julianka the gypsy). As a producer and/or director Bowden's more successful theater credits included a 1948-49 revival of Private Lives starring Tallulah Bankhead, several of Ruth Draper's Broadway appearances, and in the mid-1980s, he was production supervisor of Lily Tomlin's The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe. Bowden died in 1996.
As noted above, in 1970 Paula briefly appeared on Dark Shadows as the aunt of the 1970PT version of Angelique. She also appeared in a few movies, including a 1993 Michael J. Fox vehicle.
As Paula aged, her acting career slowed and she shifted her artistic expression to writing. She contributed to a variety of magazines, including Mademoiselle, Vogue, and Playbill.
In October 2005, Paula broke her hip, triggering a rapid decline in her health. She died on October 29 at St. Luke's hospital in Manhattan.
(Note: Much of this basic information comes from Ms. Laurence's 2005 obituary from Playbill Online by Robert Simonson, and the Internet Broadway Database.)