Partner Thierry Mahe
Otis Munro Bigelow III (June 2, 1920 - October 6, 2007) was a Broadway actor, playwright, and stage manager. He was one of the best-looking men in Manhattan in the 1940s, and one of the first partners of Christian William Miller.
Otis Munro Bigelow III was born on June 2, 1920 in Exeter, New Hampshire. He was the only child of Otis Munro Bigelow II (1881-1932), professor of Romance languages at Phillips Exeter Academy, and Ruth Lillian Spalding (1885-1937). His grandfather, Otis Munro Bigelow I (d. 1939) was the president of the Baldwinsville State Bank.
He attended Rumsey Hall School, in Washington, Connecticut, where he had his first sexual experiences with classmates. In 1934 he transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy, where he was the lead actor in theatrical productions at the Old Farragut Playhouse, Rye Beach, New Hampshire. One newspaper said: "Otis Bigelow as "Corey Masters" did a very fine job and should be mentioned as one of the outstanding members of the cast." After high school he lost his father and his uncle Robert W. Keyes of Utica, New York, who had married his aunt, Olivia Bigelow Keyes (1894-1982), became his guardian. He entered Hamilton College in 1939 joining the Naval Reserve Officer Training. At Hamilton College, Bigelow had lead roles in the Charlatans productions and was managing editor of The Continental (a student-run magazine) and co-editor of Hamiltonews. He was a member of the Publications Board and of Pi Delta Epsilon, a journalism fraternity. He was part of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. He sang in the College Choir and fenced for the Coach Glas. When he graduated in 1943, The Hamiltonian said that he was "the seniors' most diversified artist."
At the beginning of his career, he acted and danced on Broadway. He later became a playwright and theatrical agent.
In 1941 he was writing songs, like "Seems like yesterday".
While he was at Hamilton College, Bigelow wrote a play that John C. Wilson optioned for Broadway and in 1942 he asked Bigelow to come back to Broadway and rewrite it.
He was a Reservist for the U.S. Navy and served during World War II as an officer aboard minesweepers in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. After two years of active duty he was released in 1945 as a lieutenant.
He was in the cast of Red Letter, a hit in London, made his debut on Broadway as the sailor in Dear Ruth. In 1945 he was in the cast of Fifty-fifty by Andrew Rosenthal at the Sayville Playhouse, Sayville, New York, starring Margaret Bannerman.
In 1947 he made an audition at Warner Brothers in Hollywood, but was signed as screenwriter. He collaborated with Robert Richards for One Sunday Afternoon starring Dennis Morgan.
In 1948 he went to Paris "to get my mind straightened after Hollywood", and took odd jobs in French movies, from acting to translating and devising English subtitles. He appeared in films with Danielle Darrieux, Jean Pierre Aumont and Gene Kelly. In 1949 he was in the cast of Peg O' My Heart, starring Academy Award winner Peggy Ann Garner with the Chevy Chase Summer Theater in Wheeling, Illinois; a newspaper said: "The talented resident company, Paula Laurence, Martin Kingsley, Will Kuluva and Otis Bigelow, again will be turning in the excellent performances that marked last week's comedy starrting Buster Keaton."
Back to New York City, he concentrated on writing, but was not able to support himself. To Dorothy, a Son, by Roger MacDougal in collaboration with Bigelow, was a success for more than one year in London, directed by Herman Shumlin and was brought over to Broadway in 1952. Starring was Ronald Howard, the son of Leslie Howard.
Bigelow took ballet lessons and became a dancer in for The King and I on Broadway for three years; he was the Siamese slave and remained with the production for two years.
In 1953 he joined the dance group Musical Americana, made of 20 men and women, and went on a tour which covered 33 states and 25,000 miles in four months. He then spent a summer with the José Limón Company. In 1955 he then joined the cast of The Teahouse of the August Moon, produced by Maurice Evans (he was the young Okinawa suitor of the geisha girl) and in 1957 of Auntie Mame, starring Connie Bennett (he was the school teacher).
In 1957 he played the role of a Set Designer in the movie Designing Woman by Vincente Minnelli with Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall.
In the late 1950s he was resident company lead for the Cherry County Playhouse in Traverse City, Michigan:
In 1960 he appeared in the San Juan Drama Festival, in Puerto Rico. In June 1961 he had the lead role in Marriage-Go-Round with the Gretna Playhouse, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He was then Hogan in Under The Yum Yum Tree. Later in the month, he was in the cast of Make a Million; a newspaper said: "He moves like a dancer with purpose and grace does Otis Bigelow who has leading roles at the Gretna Play." And in July 1961 he was in the cast of Plain Betsy. In late 1961 he was in a Broadway production, A Cook for Mr. General. In June 1962 he was back with the Gretna Play for Everybody Loves Opal starring Kay MacDonald, and the week after he was in the cast of "Write Me a Murder", starring Leonard Frey and Joseph Masiell. In 1965 he was in the cast of Never Too Late with Maureen O'Sullivan and Arthur Godfrey, produced on Broadway and then Palm Beach, Florida.
Later in life he moved to stage management for off-Broadway and summer tour productions. He worked for Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band (1968) and for the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Bucks County Playhouse. He was also a professor at Dartmouth College.
He retired in 1984.
While acting in a summer production in Rye Beach, New Hampshire, Bigelow met Gordon Merrick. They shared an apartment in New York, on East 54th Street, and Richard Barr joined them. When Merrick wrote his gay romance The Lord Won't Mind, he modeled one of the characters after Bigelow.
In New York City in the 1940s, Bigelow became a prominent figure in the gay society. He was interviewed by Alfred Kinsey for his research on Sexual Behavior. He was in a relationship with millionaire George Gallowhur, but he left Gallowhur when he fell in love with Bill Miller.
He was friends with Maury Paul, the original Cholly Knickerbocker who wrote a society columnist for Hearst.
After retirement Bigelow resided in New York City with his long-term partner of more than 50 years, Thierry Mahe. He had a summer house on Fire Island, New York, and traveled often to France. He collected Art Nouveau glass and fin-de-sicle posters.
He died on October 6, 2007 in New York City.
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