The Corn Is Green

The Corn Is Green is a 1938 semi-autobiographical play by Welsh dramatist and actor Emlyn Williams. The play premiered in London at the Duchess Theatre in 1938 with Williams portraying Morgan Evans. The original Broadway production starred Ethel Barrymore and premiered at the National Theatre on November 26, 1940, running for 477 performances.

The Corn Is Green
U.S. first edition 1941
Written byEmlyn Williams
Date premieredSeptember 20, 1938 (1938-09-20)
Place premieredDuchess Theatre, London
Original languageEnglish
SettingThe living room of a house in Glansarno, a small village in Wales, over the space of three years in the late 19th century


L.C. Moffat is a strong-willed English school teacher working in a poverty-stricken coal mining village in late 19th century Wales. She struggles to win the local Welsh miners over to her English ways, and an illiterate teenager by the name of Morgan Evans eventually graduates with honours.


Born in 1905, Emlyn Williams grew up in the impoverished coal-mining town of Mostyn in Flintshire, Wales, and spoke only Welsh until the age of eight. He was barely literate, and later said he would probably have begun working in the mines at age 12 if he had not caught the attention of a London social worker named Sarah Grace Cooke. She established a school in Mostyn in 1915, and recognized Williams' aptitude for languages. Over the next seven years she worked with him on his English and helped him prepare to be a teacher. She obtained a scholarship for him in Switzerland, to study French, and when he was 17 she helped him win a scholarship at Christ Church, Oxford. During his studies there Williams had a nervous breakdown, but Cooke encouraged him to write as a way to recover. His first play, Full Moon, was produced while he was still at Oxford. His first success, A Murder Has Been Announced, was staged in 1930, followed by the hit thriller, Night Must Fall (1935). The Corn Is Green is considered Williams' most enduring literary credit.[1][2]


London production

The Corn Is Green premiered September 20, 1938 at the Duchess Theatre in London, following a preview performance at the Manchester Opera House. The play ran for 394 performances, closing September 2, 1939.[3]


Broadway production

Richard Waring and Ethel Barrymore in the Broadway production of The Corn Is Green (1940)
Edmund Breon and Thelma Schnee in the Broadway production of The Corn Is Green (1940)

Produced and directed by Herman Shumlin, the Broadway production of The Corn Is Green opened November 26, 1940 at the National Theatre. The setting was designed by Howard Bay; costumes were designed by Ernest Schrapps. The production transferred to the Royale Theatre on September 9, 1941 and closed January 17, 1942 after a total of 477 performances.[5][6]


Boys, girls and parents were played by Julia Knox, Amelia Romano, Betty Conibear, Rosalind Carter, Harda Normann, Joseph McInerney, Marcel Dill, Gwilym Williams and Tommy Dix.[7]

Broadway production (reprisal)

Barrymore and Waring reprised their roles in a return engagement—again produced and directed by Herman Shumlin—that ran May 3 – June 19, 1943 at the Martin Beck Theatre.[8]


  • Ethel Barrymore as Miss Moffat[8]
  • Kenneth Clarke as Idwal Morris[8]
  • Peter Harris as John Owen[8]
  • Gwyneth Hughes as Sarah Pugh[8]
  • Bert Kalmar as Will Hughes[8]
  • Eva Leonard-Boyne as Mrs. Watty[8]
  • Esther Mitchell as Miss Ronberry[8]
  • Patrick O'Connor as Robbart Robbatch[8]
  • Gene Ross as Glyn Thomas[8]
  • Lewis L. Russell as The Squire[8]
  • Richard Waring as Morgan Evans[8]
  • Tom E. Williams as John Goronwy Jones[8]
  • J.P. Wilson as Old Tom[8]
  • Perry Wilson as Bessie Watty[8]
  • George Bleasdale A Groom[8]



  • Olney Theater in Maryland presented The Corn Is Green in 1949, and it was in this production that Disney and Hawaii-Five-O star James MacArthur (adopted son of Actor Helen Hayes) first appeared on stage. It was James' sister Mary who got young James his part, pleading with their parents for James to accompany her to Maryland for the summer. See Wikipedia biography of James MacArthur.
  • In 1985, the play enjoyed a successful revival at the Old Vic Theatre in London, starring Deborah Kerr.


In 1945, a film adaptation was made with Bette Davis (herself of Welsh descent) as Moffat.

In the late 1970s, Davis returned to the role in a musical stage adaptation that proved to be a disaster. The setting was changed to the American South, with the young man transformed into an African-American field worker (portrayed by Dorian Harewood). When the pre-Broadway run opened in Philadelphia, critics were unimpressed. Plans for revisions were cut short when Davis fell ill, and the show closed abruptly after eight performances. The musical later was staged for a short run in Indianapolis with Ginger Rogers as Miss Moffat.

A 1979 made-for-television movie, directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn, was filmed on location in Wales.


  1. Krebs, Albin (September 26, 1987). "Emlyn Williams, Welsh Actor and Writer, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  2. Folkart, Burt A. (September 26, 1987). "Welsh Dramatist and Actor Emlyn Williams Dies at 81". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  3. Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1930–1939: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 702–703. ISBN 9780810893047.
  4. "The Corn Is Green". Variety. October 5, 1938. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  5. "The Corn Is Green". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  6. "The Corn is Green". Playbill Vault. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  7. Williams, Emlyn (1941) [1938]. The Corn Is Green. New York: Random House. OCLC 699598.
  8. "The Corn Is Green". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  9. "The Corn Is Green". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  10. "The Corn Is Green". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  11. Hetrick, Adam (January 14, 2009). "The Corn Is Green, with Burton and Ritchie, Opens at the Huntington Jan. 14". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
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