Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure

Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure is a 1921 play written by Walter Hackett. It was a hit on the West End, where it ran for 18 months, and also on Broadway, where it was performed under the title Captain Applejack. It has been adapted multiple times as a movie and also as a stage musical.

Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure
Written byWalter Hackett
Date premiered19 July 1921 (1921-07-19)
Place premieredCriterion Theatre
Original languageEnglish
GenreComedy

Plot

Ambrose Applejohn is bored with his life in Cornwall, where he lives with his ward, Poppy Faire. He decides to sell his country estate so he can find excitement elsewhere. Several strangers appear at his door, all claiming reasons to be there that have nothing to do with the sale. One woman says she is a Russian dancer trying to defect, and a man claims to be looking for her. A couple says their car has broken down. Applejohn assumes they are all really prospective buyers investigating his home.

That night Applejohn dreams he is a pirate, Captain Applejack. His visitors appear in the dream as his adversaries. The next day, he discovers that the visitors are thieves hunting for a treasure map hidden in the house. Applejohn and Faire overcome the criminals, and he decides that life in Cornwall is exciting enough after all.

Productions

The play was previewed at the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 11 July 1921, under the title Spanish Treasure. After being retitled Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure, it made its West End debut at the Criterion Theatre on 19 July 1921. Charles Hawtrey produced and starred as Applejohn; Marion Lorne played Poppy Faire. The play continued at the Criterion over a year, until 19 August 1922, with 454 performances.[1] It then moved to the Savoy Theatre on the Strand, opening there on 2 October 1922 and running until 27 January 1923, with 139 performances.[2]

While the West End production was still ongoing, a Broadway production was launched, this time titled Captain Applejack. Wallace Eddinger played Applejohn, with Phoebe Foster as Faire. Sam H. Harris produced. It opened on 30 December 1921 at the Cort Theatre, where it ran for 195 performances, closing in June 1922.

In 1922 the play made its first appearance in Australia, opening at the Criterion Theatre in Sydney on 2 September 1922, with Lawrence Grossmith starring as Applejohn.[3]

Cast and characters

The characters and cast from the West End and Broadway productions are given below:

Cast of the West End and Broadway productions
Character Criterion Theatre cast[1] Savoy Theatre cast[2] Cort Theatre cast[4]
Ambrose Applejohn Charles HawtreyCharles HawtreyWallace Eddinger
Poppy Faire Marion LorneMarion LornePhoebe Foster
Horace Pengard Edward Rigby
  • Edward Rigby
  • Alec F. Thompson
Ferdinand Gottschalk
Lush Arthur FayneArthur FayneJohn Gray
Mrs. Pengard Annie EsmondAnnie EsmondHelen Lackaye
Anna Valeska Hilda MooreHilda MooreMary Nash
Ivan Borolsky
William StackHamilton Revelle
Dennett
  • Wilson Blake
  • C. Fairlie
Wilson BlakeWalter F. Scott
Johnny Jason
  • H. V. Surrey
  • Austin Fairman
Austin FairmanHarold Vermilye
Mrs. Agatha Whatcombe Mona HarrisonMona HarrisonMarie Wainwright
Marie
Christine Rayner
Palmer Maud Andrew

Reception

A reviewer for The Spectator "thoroughly enjoyed" the play, despite criticizing it as "silly" and "loosely put together".[5] In The New York Times, Alexander Woollcott praised the play as a "droll and ingenious farce".[4]

Adaptations

In 1923, Louis B. Mayer produced an adaptation of the play as a silent film, titled Strangers of the Night, directed by Fred Niblo, and which starred Matt Moore, Enid Bennett, and Barbara La Marr.

Warner Brothers produced a sound film adaptation, titled Captain Applejack, in 1931. John Halliday and Mary Brian starred, with direction by Hobart Henley.

In 1933, R. P. Weston and Bert Lee created a stage musical, He Wanted Adventure, based on Hackett's play.

References

  1. Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1920-1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-8108-9301-6.
  2. Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1920-1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-8108-9301-6.
  3. "Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure". The Sydney Morning Herald. 4 September 1922. p. 5.
  4. Woollcott, Alexander (31 December 1921). "The Play". The New York Times. 71 (23, 352). p. 14.
  5. "Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure at the Criterion Theatre". The Spectator. 30 July 1921. p. 141.
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