Sylvia Lennick, the last surviving member of the Wayne and Shuster comedy troupe, died this morning of complications from pneumonia in Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. She was 93.
A stalwart presence for decades as an actor and singer on Canadian radio, stage and television, Ms. Lennick got more applause than the headliners when the troupe appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in May, 1958 with a performance of "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga," a Dragnet-type crime skit in which Mr. Wayne, as private eye Flavius Maximus, tries to finger Marcus Brutus, played by Frank Shuster, for the murder of Julius Caesar. As Calpurnia, the bereaved widow, Ms. Lennick brought the house down at rehearsal and then with viewers when she repeatedly wailed, "I told him, Julie don't go," a line that was picked up across the country and is still synonymous with her name.
At the time, Ms. Lennick didn't anticipate that "Julie don't go," would provoke such a response. In fact, she worried about doing the part in a heavy Bronx accent in New York, where "everybody talks like that," as she said in an interview last year with The Toronto Star. As for laughs, she thought her best hope was the line, "It's the Ides of March, already," a comment that has proved completely forgettable in the last five decades.
Ms. Lennick, who was married for more than 50 years to the late actor Ben Lennick, is survived by two sons and a daughter. The funeral is planned for Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2009 at Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel in Toronto.