|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, featuring Garson Kanin as Al, who would later become assistant to George Abbottand later author the Broadway play Born Yesterday and co-author the Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn film Adam's Rib with his wife his first wife, Ruth Gordon.
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 revival was directed by George Abbott and starred original Broadway star Sam Levene, reprising his legendary performance as Patsy he created in the original Broadway production 35 years earlier, 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 not as successful as the original 1935 Broadway production. 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 thirty-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.
Fred Ebb was an American musical theatre lyricist who had many successful collaborations with composer John Kander. The Kander and Ebb team frequently wrote for such performers as Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera.
Summer and Smoke is a two-part, thirteen-scene 1948 play by Tennessee Williams, originally titled Chart of Anatomy when Williams began work on it in 1945. 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. In 1964, Williams revised the play as The Eccentricities of a Nightingale.
Guys and Dolls is a musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It is based on "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" (1933) and "Blood Pressure", which are two short stories by Damon Runyon, and also borrows characters and plot elements from other Runyon stories – such as "Pick the Winner".
Glengarry Glen Ross is a play by David Mamet that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984. The play shows parts of two days in the lives of four desperate Chicago real estate agents who are prepared to engage in any number of unethical, illegal acts—from lies and flattery to bribery, threats, intimidation and burglary—to sell undesirable real estate to unwitting prospective buyers. It is based on Mamet's experience having previously worked in a similar office.
Sam Levene was a Broadway, film, radio and television actor as well as a 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 would later change 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.
Twentieth Century is a 1932 play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur based on the unproduced play Napoleon of Broadway by Charles B. Millholland, inspired by his experience working for the eccentric Broadway impresario David Belasco.
Scott Rudin is an American film, TV and theater producer.
Jack O'Brien is an American director, producer, writer and lyricist. He served as the Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California from 1981 through the end of 2007.
Yellow Jack is a 1938 film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer based on the 1934 play Yellow Jack. Both were co-written by Sidney Howard and Paul de Kruif.
Joe DiPietro is an American playwright, lyricist and author.
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.
They Knew What They Wanted is a 1924 play written by Sidney Howard. The play premiered on Broadway in 1924 and had three Broadway revivals, as well as a London production.
Three Men on a Horse is a 1936 comedy film directed and produced by Mervyn LeRoy, adapted from the Broadway play of the same name written by George Abbott and John Cecil Holm. A mild-mannered greeting card poet has the uncanny ability to pick winners in horse races.
Best Foot Forward is a 1941 musical with songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and a book by John Cecil Holm. Produced by George Abbott, after an out-of-town tryout, the production opened on Broadway on October 1, 1941 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it ran for 326 performances. It was directed by Abbott, with choreography by Gene Kelly, and starred Rosemary Lane. The show was Nancy Walker's Broadway debut and also launched June Allyson to stardom. Sets and lighting were by Jo Mielziner, and costumes were by Miles White.
Dinner at Eight is a 1932 American play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. The plot deals with the Jordan family, who are planning a society dinner, and what they, as well as various friends and acquaintances—all of whom have their own problems and ambitions‚ do as they prepare for the event.
Sam Locke was an American writer and director who worked in theatre, television, and film.
Paris Is Out! is a 1970 Broadway play by Richard Seff that starred Sam Levene and Molly Picon as Daniel and Hortense Brand, a married couple planning a vacation. The Broadway production ran for 96 performances after 16 previews at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre between February 2 and April 18, 1970.