- July 7, 2010
Louise King returned to Sarasota from a trip to New York at the end of October. It wasn’t her favorite trip there, but she isn’t upset because it wasn’t her first time visiting — and it certainly won’t be the last. When she’s there she loves to go to the theater. She has been most impressed with Vanessa Redgrave’s role in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and Bernadette Peters in “Gypsy.”
But King hasn’t always been in the audience; in the ’50s, her own name was in lights.
She grew up in Wabash, Ind., and moved with her family to Long Island, N.Y., when her father, Andrew W. Cordier, became the assistant to the secretary general at the United Nations, just as the U.N. was forming.
She studied interior design at Whitman College, but lasted only for one semester. She dropped out to pursue modeling.
“I was very lucky,” she says. “From there, one good thing led to another.”
At the age of 18, the blue-eyed, fair-skinned beauty married her Long Island neighbor, 21-year-old Broadway star, John Michael King.
Shortly after that, she started a 50-plus-performance, six-month tour with a play called “Mr. Roberts,” and she was the only gal on tour with 38 men. She realized the marriage wasn’t meant to be.
“I was just too young!” she says.
A year after returning from the tour, she was cast as “The Girl,” a lead role in “The Seven Year Itch,” with the national company. Initially, they wanted her to be the understudy. But when she turned that offer down, they gave her the lead.
“My name was in lights on my second job,” she says, “That just about never happens.”
In 1955, she starred alongside Tom Ewell in the New York company’s run. This was after he filmed the movie with Marilyn Monroe. In fact, Monroe came to see King and Ewell in the production, and King met her after the show.
“I love it because (in the picture of us) Tom’s looking at me (and not Marilyn),” King chuckles.
In 1956, she met “the great love of her life,” Peter Collins, a British Formula One racecar driver.
“We met on a Monday at Coconut Grove Playhouse, while I was doing the ‘The Seven Year Itch,’” King says. “On Wednesday, he asked me to marry him. And we got married the following Monday. It was the most wonderful year-and-a-half.” Collins died during a race in Germany.
After Collins died, she went on tour playing Juliet in “Romanoff and Juliet,” and she spent 1959 on the panel of quiz show, “What’s My Line?” King was also cast on the “Today” show as “girl of the week,” a spot for models, but they ended up keeping her on for six months.
In 1962, she co-hosted the “Today” show with Frank Blair and John Chancellor. At the time, Barbara Walters was one of the show’s writers.
“It was my most interesting job,” she says. “Whatever they did yesterday, they’d come in today and talk about it. It was a constant influx of interesting people and interesting happenings.”
KING’S LIFE AT A GLANCE
• Louise King was a co-anchor of the “Today” show when women weren’t normally anchors on TV.
• Barbara Walters wrote copy for Louise King when she was on the “Today” show.
• King’s father, Andrew W. Cordier, helped start the United Nations.
• King was married to a Broadway celebrity, a famous race car driver and a film producer.
• Marilyn Monroe came to see King in “The Seven Year Itch.”