Libel!

Libel! is a play written by Edward Wooll. It debuted on 2 April 1934 at the Playhouse Theatre in London's West End, where it was directed by Leon M. Lion. Producer Gilbert Miller brought it to Henry Miller's Theatre on Broadway in December 1935, with Otto Preminger directing.

Libel!
Written byEdward Wooll
Date premiered2 April 1934 (1934-04-02)
Place premieredPlayhouse Theatre
Original languageEnglish
GenreCourtroom drama

Wooll, a barrister of the Inner Temple and Recorder of Carlisle, wrote the play under the pseudonym "Ward Dorane".

Wooll wrote a novelization in 1935, and the play was adapted as a movie in 1959.

Plot

Sir Mark Loddon, a war hero and Member of Parliament, is suing a newspaper for libel. The paper claims that he is an impostor, a fellow soldier and friend of Loddon from the war who happened to resemble the original Loddon. The play is set in the courtroom as the trial for the lawsuit takes place. Loddon takes the stand as the first witness. He recounts being taken prisoner during the war, then escaping a few years later. After the war he married his pre-war fiancée, Enid, and was elected to the House of Commons. However, he says he has no recollection of events from before he was taken prisoner, a condition he attributes to shell shock. On cross-examination, defence lawyer Thomas Foxley accuses Loddon of being Frank Wenley, a soldier who escaped with Loddon and had strikingly similar features. Another soldier from the escape, Patrick Buckenham, testifies that Loddon and Wenley looked so much alike that they could have been twins. He believes Wenley killed the real Loddon. Loddon's attorney elicits testimony that Buckenham is being paid a stipend by the newspaper and had previously attempted to blackmail Loddon.

Dr. Emile Flordon testifies to treating a severely beaten patient who was wearing a jacket from Loddon's brigade. The patient has recovered physically, but his injuries have left him mentally incapacitated. This man could be Wenley, or he could be Loddon. Foxley calls Enid Loddon to the stand, and she testifies that she no longer believes her husband is the real Mark Loddon. Just as it seems Loddon will lose his case, he has a sudden memory and asks to take the stand again. Loddon explains that the injured man was a German soldier that he encountered while escaping. He beat the man and switched clothing to aid the escape. He cuts open the lining of the jacket that Flordon had brought from his patient. Loddon pulls out a photograph of Enid from before the war, saying it was a gift from her before he left. The defence accepts this demonstration as proof of Loddon's identity. He wins his case and reunites with his wife.

Productions

The play debuted at the Playhouse Theatre on 2 April 1934, with Leon M. Lion producing. It played there until it was transferred to the Aldwych Theatre on 10 September 1934. It closed on 17 November 1934.[1] On 20 December 1935, a production opened on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theatre. Gilbert Miller produced, and Otto Preminger directed. The Broadway production ran until May 1936, with 158 performances.[2]

Cast and characters

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

Cast of the West End and Broadway productions of Libel!
Character West End cast[3] Broadway cast[4]
AssociateBasil DignamLewis Dayton
William BaleMichael BarryCharles Francis
Sir. Wilfred Kelling, K.C. M.P.Nigel PlayfairErnest Lawford
The Hon. Sir Arthur TuttingtonAubrey MatherFrederick Leister
Thomas Foxley, K.C.Leon M. LionWilfrid Lawson
Sir Mark Loddon, Bart. M.P.Malcolm KeenColin Clive
Lady Enid LoddonFrances DobleJoan Marion
Sarah CarletonGwendoline HillHelen Goss
George HemsbyMark DignamColin Hunter
Patrick BuckinghamJames CarewArthur Vinton
Emile FlordonAnthony HollesBoris Marshalov
Admiral Fairfax LoddonFrank MellorCharles Wellesley
Captain Gerald LoddonJohn Stewart-BingleyLarry Johns
General Winterton, C.B.John H. MooreEdward Oldfield
Lady WintertonJocelyn BraithwaiteEmily Gilbert
Major BramptonMatthew ForsythNeville Heber-Percy
Numero QuinzeBeckett BouldRobert Simmons
Sir Eric FoulshamW. A. Reid
Evelyn FilbeyJane Archer

Reception

The Spectator complimented the acting of the West End cast, but questioned whether a severely shell shocked veteran would be able to win election to Parliament.[5] Kirkus Reviews called it a "well sustained story of double identity".[6]

Novel and adaptations

Wooll's novel of the same name was published by Blackie & Son of London in 1935,[7] and reviewed in The Deseret News, 7 March 1936.[8]

The play was adapted into a movie, Libel, in 1959, relating to events of the second world war, not the first. It was directed by Anthony Asquith, and starred Olivia de Havilland and Dirk Bogarde. The screenplay was by Anatole de Grunwald and Karl Tunberg.[9]

References

  1. "Record: 'Libel!' by Ward Dorane". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  2. "Libel". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  3. Parker, John (1936). Who's Who in the Theatre. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons. p. 86. OCLC 1604876.
  4. "The Play: Libel, or Is It Possible that Sir Mark Loddon Is a Couple of Other Fellows?". The New York Times. 85 (28, 455). 21 December 1935. p. 10.
  5. "A Spectator's Notebook". Spectator. 6 April 1934. p. 530.
  6. "Libel by Edward Wooll". Kirkus Reviews. 10 February 1936.
  7. Blackie & Son
  8. Deseret News
  9. Kabatchnik, Amnon (2009). Blood on the Stage, 1925–1950: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-8108-6963-9. OCLC 320351782.

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