|Three Men on a Horse|
|Written by|| George Abbott |
John Cecil Holm
|Date premiered||January 30, 1935|
|Place premiered|| Playhouse Theatre |
New York City
|Setting||Ozone Heights, New Jersey|
Lavillere Hotel, New York City
Three Men on a Horse is a three act farce co-authored by John Cecil Holm and George Abbott. 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. Originally titled Hobby Horse by John Cecil Holm, Three Men On A Horse was a property controlled and produced by Alex Yokel, who reached out to Warners Bros. for financial assistance; Warners agreed to provide financing on the condition Yokel find someone to doctor the script and direct the Broadway production. George Abbott, the legendary director, who had since 1932 directed and produced each of his Broadway productions, immediately saw the potential and rewrote the script and agreed to direct if he received co-author credit and split the author's royalties with Holm. Abbott wrote a third act, resulting in a new three act play titled Three Men on a Horse.
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 was a qualified smash hit, and opened at the Playhouse Theatre on January 30, 1935, and remained there until November 1936, when it transferred to the Fulton Theatre, for the last three months of its two-year Broadway long-run, closing January 9, 1937, after 835 performances, the longest Broadway production ever. Directed by co-author George Abbott, with a set design by Boris Aronson, the opening night cast starred Sam Levene as Patsy, Shirley Booth as Mabel, William Lynn as Erwin Trowbridge and Teddy Hart as Frankie; Garson Kanin performed the featured role of Al, and later became assistant to director and co-author, George Abbott.
The first UK production of Three Men On A Horse premiered at Wyndham's Theatre, London on February 18, 1936. Produced by Alex Yokel, the three act farce had an abbreviated run of only 236 performances and closed December 9, 1936. Performed by an American cast including: Bernard Nedell as Patsy, David Burns as Frankie, Romney Brent as Erwin, Three Men On A Horse depends on casting performers who are skillful at comedic timing and slapstick comedy. Since the John Cecil Holm and George Abbott script includes references not generally known in Britain, the theatrical program had a glossary so the audience would understand the expressions used in the play, which may have been a reason for its shorter run versus the original Broadway production.
The first Broadway revival opened at the Forrest Theatre on October 9, 1942, and only ran for 28 performances. Directed by John Cecil Holm, the cast included Horace McMahon as Patsy.
A second Broadway revival opened at the Lyceum Theatre on October 16, 1969 and closed January 10, 1970, after four previews and 100 performances, the second longest running Broadway production. Like the original Broadway production, the all star 1969 revival was directed by George Abbott and starred original Broadway star Sam Levene, reprising his legendary performance as Patsy he created thirty-five years earlier in the original Broadway production, Jack Gilford as Erwin Trowbridge, Dorothy Loudon as Mabel, Butterfly McQueen as Dora Lee, the Elevator Operator, Paul Ford as Mr. Carver, Hal Linden as Charlie and Rosemary Prinz as Audrey Trowbridge
The third Broadway revival produced by the National Actors Theatre directed by John Tillinger also opened at the Lyceum Theatre on April 13, 1993 and closed May 16, 1993 after a brief run of only 24 previews and 39 performances. The Broadway revival starred The Odd Couple television stars Tony Randall as Erwin Trowbridge and Jack Klugman as Patsy, Jerry Stiller as Charlie, Ellen Greene as Mabel and Julie Hagerty as Audrey Trowbridge.The first UK revival was staged by the Royal National Theatre from January 22, 1987 through June 27, 1987. Starring Toyah Willcox, Ken Stott, Desmond Barrit and Geoffrey Hutchings. The production received the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.
An off-Broadway revival produced by The Actors Company Theatre opened on March 14, 2011, and ran until April 15, 2011.
The play was adapted twice as a Broadway musical twice, each time with a different title and each time unsuccessful. A musical adaptation titled 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.
Starring George Gobel as Erwin and Sam Levene as Patsy, who was reprising the role of Patsy he had created twenty-five years earlier, the second musical adaptation was titled Let It Ride (1961), which boasted a score by legendary songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, best known for creating three Oscar-winning songs, Buttons and Bows, Mona Lisa and Que Sera, Sera and two other movie songs that were smash hits, Silver Bells and Tammy; on television, the team wrote the Bonanza and Mister Ed theme songs.Directed by Stanley Prager and choreographed by Onna White, the Broadway musical opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on October 12, 1961 and closed December 9, 1961 after running for 68 performances and one preview. The musical co-starred Barbara Nichols as Mabel Paula Stewart as Audrey and Ted Thurston.
A 1936 film adaptation released by Warner Bros. was produced and directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starred Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee and Sam Levene who reprised the role of Patsy he created in the original Broadway production. Jacob Wilk, Warner's Eastern Story Editor acknowledged the film company invested $9,200 for a 50% stake in the Broadway production, also getting screen rights to produce a film version. The investment paid off handsomely as the investment was made before the Broadway production opened, returning $430,000 in gross profit from royalties from the original Broadway and touring productions.
A 1957 German language film adaptation, Drei Mann auf einem Pferd , starred Walter Giller and Nadja Tiller.
A 1969 French language film adaptation, Trois Hommes sur un cheval, was written and directed by Marcel Moussy.
In 1989, a film version, titled Let It Ride with the same basic plot—though purportedly based on a novel— was adapted for an American produced screen comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss.
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,"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."
An early televised version of the play aired over NBC's experimental station W2XBS on November 24, 1939.
The play, starring Hiram Sherman, was presented by Prudential Family Playhouse on November 21, 1950.
Orson Bean starred in a Broadway Television Theatre production on April 21, 1952, which was his TV debut.
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.
In 1936, Milton Bradley introduced an Art Deco inspired Three Men On A Horse board game based on the 1936 Warners Bros. film.Designed so it could be played by two to six players, the game included miniature horses and men, a two part race track and dine. Each player begins the game with three horses with three men, a player on each horse. The race begins at the starting gate where each player has three horses along with three men, one man on each horse and the first player who crosses the finish line with all three men on all their horses wins.
Kiss Me, Kate is a musical written by Bella and Samuel Spewack with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The story involves the production of a musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and the conflict on and off-stage between Fred Graham, the show's director, producer, and star, and his leading lady, his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi. A secondary romance concerns Lois Lane, the actress playing Bianca, and her gambler boyfriend, Bill, who runs afoul of some gangsters. The original production starred Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk and Harold Lang.
The Matchmaker is a 1954 play by Thornton Wilder, a rewritten version of his 1938 play The Merchant of Yonkers.
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Summer and Smoke is a two-part, thirteen-scene play by Tennessee Williams, completed in 1948. He began working on the play in 1945 as Chart of Anatomy, derived from his short stories "Oriflamme" and the then-work-in-progress "Yellow Bird." The phrase "summer and smoke" probably comes from the Hart Crane poem "Emblems of Conduct" in the 1926 collection White Buildings. After a disappointing Broadway run in 1948, the play was a hit Off-Broadway in 1952. Williams continued to revise Summer and Smoke in the 1950s, and in 1964 he rewrote the play as The Eccentricities of a Nightingale.
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Sam Levene was an Russian-born American Broadway, film, radio and television actor and director. In a career spanning over five decades, he originated some of the most legendary comedic roles in American theatrical history, including Nathan Detroit, the craps-shooter extraordinaire, in the 1950 original Broadway production of Guys and Dolls (1950), Max Kane, the hapless agent, in the original 1932 Broadway production of Dinner at Eight (1932); Patsy, a professional if not always successful gambler, in the longest running and original Broadway production of Three Men on a Horse (1935); Gordon Miller, the shoestring producer, in the original Broadway production of Room Service (1937); Sidney Black, a theatrical producer, in Moss Hart's original Broadway production of Light Up the Sky (1948), Horace Vandergelder, the crotchety merchant of Yonkers, in the premier UK production of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker (1954), a play that became the basis for the musical Hello Dolly, Lou Winkler, a businessman in the original Broadway production of Fair Game (1957) a comedy by Sam Locke that Larry Gelbart attributed its 217-performance run mostly to the performance and drawing power of Sam Levene who starred in the comedy with Ellen McRae, a 25-year ingenue making her Broadway debut and who later changed her name to Ellen Burstyn; and Al Lewis, the retired vaudevillian, in the original Broadway production of The Sunshine Boys (1972), Neil Simon’s salute to vaudevillians opposite Jack Albertson as Willie Clark, a role Levene performed 466 times on Broadway, first with Jack Albertson until October 28, 1974 and later opposite Jack Gilford, October 30, 1974 until February 10, 1975. In 1984, Levene was posthumously inducted in the American Theatre Hall of Fame and in 1998, Sam Levene along with the original Broadway cast of the 1950 Guys and Dolls Decca cast album posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Let It Ride is a Broadway musical based on the 1935 Broadway farce Three Men on a Horse by George Abbott and John Cecil Holm. The musical, with book by Abram S. Ginnes and music and lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, choreographer Onna White, assistant choreographer Eugene Louis Faccuito (Luigi), opened on Broadway in New York City at the Eugene O'Neill Theater on October 12, 1961, and played 69 performances including one preview. The original Broadway production co-starred George Gobel and Sam Levene and featured Barbara Nichols and Paula Stewart.
Bartlett B. Sher is an American theatre director. The New York Times has described him as "one of the most original and exciting directors, not only in the American theater but also in the international world of opera". Sher has been nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical as well as a Drama Desk Award for his direction of the 2008 Broadway revival of South Pacific.
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Banjo Eyes is a musical based on the play Three Men on a Horse by John Cecil Holm and George Abbott. It has a book by Joseph Quinlan and Izzy Ellinson, music by Vernon Duke, and lyrics by John La Touche and Harold Adamson.
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