Paula Edmonds Moore, A.A. degree ENMU (1964) has recently published a book on theatre luminaries Abby Lewis and John Seymour. Her husband, Leon Moore, graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1964.
Paula's newest (and third) book is Matinee and Evening: The Story of Actors Abby Lewis and John Seymour by Paula Moore, Brighton Publishing, 2014.
From Mesilla Park, N.M., feisty, talented Abby Lewis headed for Broadway in the early 1930s. She was fortunate to land some walk-on and understudy roles in the company of Shakespearean actor Walter Hampden, about to go on a 1933 nationwide tour. At the first Hampden rehearsal she fell in love at first sight with an older, very handsome, very married actor from a New York theatre dynasty family, John Davenport Seymour.
John returned Abby's feelings, and an intense affair commenced, but the two waited a surprising 14 years before John felt he could leave his wife and children and marry Abby.
John and Abby did everything they could to bolster each other's careers and slowly began to succeed. Particularly touching was a series of heartfelt and earnest letters exchanged between Abby and John's wife, Frances, who tried fruitlessly to salvage her marriage. John, who—for all his flaws—remains amazingly difficult to dislike, was the courier of these letters.
Their love story, not an easy story, was constantly challenged by John’s wife and two children, as well as Abby’s concerned family.
They married in 1951 and continued their love story until John’s death in 1986, after an awful "push-in" robbery of their Greenwich Village home on Minetta Lane, during which he was badly beaten.
Abby was determined, and she was the quintessential professional. She showed up on time for every assignment, even if ill or tired, and she took every sort of lesson, including 10 years with the Strasbergs (two of them alongside Marilyn Monroe). She made it to the Broadway stage more than once.
Abby loved John unconditionally, supported him financially, and enabled his comeback. By the late ‘40s the two were working separately on radio ser ials, then enjoyed single and joint TV appearances on the shows of Jack Paar, Jackie Gleason and others, then film work. Along the way were many stage roles as well. In the 1960s/’70s, the two became frequent models, their faces in TV commercials, as well as The New York Times, a cover of Newsweek, and other print media. They bought some lovely beachfront property on the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound, which propelled their assets to more than $2 million dollars.
John Seymour's memories of New York City theatre, beginning from his high-school stage appearance with Enrico Caruso and first play in 1918 with beautiful Laurette Taylor and other celebrity actors of the time, are precise and articulate. He maintained an active membership in The Players, where his portrait still hangs in the Library. New York City was Abby's home from 1933 until her death in 1997.
Paula's second book, Cricket in the Web: The 1949 Unsolved Murder that Unraveled Politics in New Mexico, (UNM Press, 2008) won four awards (including two statewide).