Henry James's seemingly misplaced fascination with the theater has long been recognized: so much so that both recent novelistic treatments of his life (David Lodge's Author, Author and Colm Tóibín's The Master) choose to begin with the pathetic tableau of the author on stage after the première of Guy Domville, the bewildered target of catcalls and jeers from a disappointed house. Less appreciated, however, is the theater's (sometimes misplaced) fascination with Henry James. While a handful of successful adaptations of his works have been analyzed by James scholars - Ruth and Augustus Goetz's The Heiress (1947), for example, or Michael Redgrave's The Aspern Papers (1959) - the spectacular failure of the most astonishing of them has gone unremarked. The fantastic notion of employing The Ambassadors as the platform for a Broadway musical originated with no less a figure than James Thurber; but the ill-fated task of fulfilling that dubious dream was left to others now forgotten. This paper resurrects their remarkable ambition, their fleeting success, and their ultimate failure. An original English comedy is not to be had by whistling - no, nor apparently even by praying - for it.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Literature and Literary Theory