Three Men on a Horse

Three Men on a Horse is a play by George Abbott and John Cecil Holm. The comedy focuses on a man who discovers he has a talent for choosing the winning horse in a race as long as he never places a bet himself.

Three Men on a Horse
Written byGeorge Abbott
John Cecil Holm
Date premieredJanuary 30, 1935
Place premieredPlayhouse Theatre
New York City
Original languageEnglish
SettingOzone Heights, New Jersey
Lavillere Hotel, New York City


Mild-mannered Erwin Trowbridge, bored with his suburban New Jersey life with his wife and brother-in-law and frustrated by his low-paying job writing greeting card verses, decides to declare his independence by skipping work and spending the day in a local saloon. There he meets two men and a woman who make a living by betting on horse races. When they discover Erwin has an almost supernatural ability to go through a racing form and pick the winners, they persuade him to join them at a New York City hotel and regularly give them tips. Complications arise when Erwin begins to miss his wife and job and his cronies insist he put some money on a horse himself, despite his claim he will lose his power if he places a bet.


The play, a farce, has been produced on Broadway four times. The original Broadway production opened at the Playhouse Theatre on January 30, 1935, and remained there until November 1936, when it transferred to the Fulton Theatre to complete its long-run of 835 performances. Directed by George Abbott, the opening night cast included Sam Levene as Patsy, Shirley Booth as Mabel and Garson Kanin.

The first revival opened at the Forrest Theatre on October 9, 1942, and ran for 28 performances. Directed by John Cecil Holm, the cast included Horace McMahon.

The second revival opened at the Lyceum Theatre on October 16, 1969. It ran for four previews and 100 performances. Directed by George Abbott, the cast included Sam Levene reprising his original Broadway performance as Patsy, Jack Gilford, Dorothy Loudon, Butterfly McQueen, Paul Ford, Hal Linden and Rosemary Prinz.

The third revival was staged by the National Actors Theatre. It began previews at the Lyceum Theatre on March 23, 1993, opened on April 13, and closed on May 16 after 24 previews and 39 performances. Directed by John Tillinger, the cast included Tony Randall, Jack Klugman, Jerry Stiller, Ellen Greene and Julie Hagerty.

The play was staged by the Royal National Theatre from January 22 through June 27, 1987.[1] Starring Toyah Willcox, Ken Stott, Desmond Barrit and Geoffrey Hutchings. Because it was the first time it was produced in London, it was eligible for nomination for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, which it won.[2]

An off-Broadway revival of the play at The Actors Company Theatre opened on March 14, 2011, and ran until April 15, 2011.[3]

The play was mounted in two USO tours playing 200 shows to 120,000 servicemen, the first legitimate U.S. theatrical production mounted overseas. Due to security, the USO cast was reduced from 12 to 7 without losing a minute of running dialogue. According to a May 26, 1945 Billboard interview, Sam Levene, who starred in the role of Patsy, said[4], "the G.I.s' gratefulness is absolutely embarrassing. They express it not only by applause but by meeting you personally and giving you objects which they have fought and bled for. They lose sight of the fact that they are the ones fighting the war."

Film adaptations

A 1936 film adaptation was produced and directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starred Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, and Sam Levene.

A 1957 German language film adaptation, Drei Mann auf einem Pferd, starred Walter Giller and Nadja Tiller.

A 1969 French language screen adaptation, Trois hommes sur un cheval, was written and directed by Marcel Moussy.

In 1989, the same title and same basic plotthough purportedly based on a novelwere used for an American-produced screen comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss.

Television adaptations

An early televised version of the play aired over NBC's experimental station W2XBS on November 24, 1939.[5][6]

The play, starring Hiram Sherman, was presented by Prudential Family Playhouse on November 21, 1950.[7]

Orson Bean starred in a Broadway Television Theatre production on April 21, 1952, which was his TV debut.[8]

On April 18, 1957, Playhouse 90 presented an adaptation directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Johnny Carson, Jack Carson, Mona Freeman, Carol Channing, Larry Blyden, and Edward Everett Horton.[9]

Musical adaptations

The play was adapted for the musical stage twice. Banjo Eyes, with music by Vernon Duke and lyrics by John La Touche, opened on Broadway at the Hollywood Theatre on December 25, 1941, and ran for 126 performances. The cast included Eddie Cantor, Virginia Mayo, Lionel Stander, and Jacqueline Susann.[10]

Directed by Stanley Prager and choreographed by Onna White, Let It Ride, with music and lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on October 12, 1961, after one preview and ran for 68 performances. The cast include George Gobel, Barbara Nichols, Paula Stewart, Ted Thurston, and Sam Levene.[11]


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