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Love from a Stranger (play)

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Love from a Stranger is a 1936 play based on Philomel Cottage, a 1924 short story by British mystery writer Agatha Christie.

BackgroundEdit

The play was adapted by Frank Vosper and opened at the New Theatre on 31 March 1936. Vosper himself starred in the play which was later turned into a successful film. Promotional extracts were broadcast on the BBC Regional Programme on Friday 1 May 1936 in a twenty minute programme starting at 7.10pm with members of the then-current stage cast.

On 9 May 1936, the final performance was given at the New Theatre and the play immediately transferred to the Queen's Theatre on Monday 11 May where it ran until Saturday 8 August 1936. It reopened two days later at the Streatham Hill Theatre for one week.

Reception of London productionEdit

The play garnered good reviews with the Daily Herald stating that it was "a brilliant terror play" and "our blood was gloriously curdled last night". The Times was equally enthusiastic stating "The final act is very sure of its effect. The suspense is maintained; each turn of the story is clear and striking; the terror-stricken self-control of the girl and the man's gross and abominable insanity are depicted by Miss Marie Ney and Mr Vosper with every refinement of a murderous thriller. Within the limits of its purpose, the acting of this scene could scarcely be bettered." It is claimed that the climax was so chilling to members of the audience that some fainted with the suspense.

Ivor Brown in The Observer of 5 April 1936 said, "There is authentic and tremendous suspense about the struggle between Bruce and his captive wife. One feels that, if any bird did nest near this cottage, it would be the croaking raven or fatal owl." Frank Vosper's performance was described as "very clever" and "a first-rate study of disintegration, in which the muscle of the first act becomes the fearsome flabbiness of the last. Both the chief players have to change character during the play, which, since this is well done, gives it a special acting-value apart from its interest of plot and problem."

The Scotsman of 1 April 1936 started its review with, "To watch the performance of Love from a Stranger at the New Theatre, is like witnessing a clever conjuring show. One knows that all that is apparently happening is next to impossible, yet one cannot fail to be thrilled." The review went on to say that, "Mr Frank Vosper achieves with great art the transformation from a pleasant young Colonial to a habitual murderer. The scene where he gradually reveals his true character by tearing up his wife's scarf in a paroxysm of murderous fury is invested by him with a realism that is almost horrible. It was difficult to assess the performance of Miss Marie Ney, because it was difficult to believe that she would ever have placed herself in such a situation."

Credits of London productionEdit

Director: Murray MacDonald

Cast of London Production:
Frank Vosper as Bruce Lovell
Muriel Aked as Louise Garrard
Norah Howard as Mavis Wilson
Marie Ney as Cecily Harrington
Geoffrey King as Nigel Lawrence
Charles Hodges as Hodgson
Esma Cannon as Ethel
S Major Jones as Dr. Gribble

Broadway productionEdit

Vosper took the play to New York where it ran from September 21 to c. November 1, 1936 for thirty-eight performances. The first week (up to September 28) was at the Erlanger Theatre and from then until the closure of the play it ran at the Fulton Theatre

Credits of Broadway productionEdit

Director: Auriol Lee

Cast:
A. G. Andrews as Hodgson
Leslie Austen as Nigel Lawrence
George Graham as Dr. Gribble
Jessie Royce Landis as Cecily Harrington
Mildred Natwick as Ethel
Minna Phillips as Louise Garrard
Olive Reeves-Smith as Mavis Wilson
Frank Vosper as Bruce Lovell

Publication and further adaptationsEdit

The play was first published by William Collins in June 1936 in both simultaneous hardback (priced five shillings) and paperback (priced three shillings and sixpence) editions and was re-issued by Samuel French Ltd in 1937.

The play was twice turned into a film. The 1937 British production starred Basil Rathbone and Ann Harding and was released in the US as A Night of Terror. The 1947 US remake starred John Hodiak and Sylvia Sidney and was released in the UK as A Stranger Walked In.

The play was also televised twice by the BBC on 23 November 1938 and 25 May 1947, both as live performances.

A radio version of the play was presented on the BBC Home Service on 24 March 1945 from 9.30 to 10.45pm as part of the Saturday Night Theatre strand. The play was produced by Howard Rose.

Cast:
Josephine Shand as Louise Garrard
Ann Farrar as Mavis Wilson
Grizelda Hervey as Cecily Harrington
John Clements as Bruce Lovell
Richard Williams as Nigel Lawrence
Ian Sadler as Hodgson
Freda Falconer as Ethel
Cecil Fowler as Dr. Gribble

A second radio version was broadcast on the General Forces Programme on Wednesday 9 May 1945 from 7.30pm to 8.30pm and was produced by Martyn C. Webster. This version was repeated on Wednesday 4 July at the same time.

Cast
Pamela Brown as Cecily Harrington
John Slater as Bruce Lovell
Alan Howland as Nigel Lawrence
Rita Vale as Mavis Wilson
Dora Gregory as Louise Garrard
Patric Curwen as Dr Gribble
Frank Tickle as Hodgson
Ellinore Stuart as Ethel

A BBC Radio 4 play was broadcast on 14 January 2002.

The latest adaptation, by Louise Page, opened on Wednesday 14 April at The Mill at Sonning, in Berkshire, England Chloe Newsome plays Alix, Dido Miles (Fran), Peter Moreton (Dick), Gerald is played by David Michaels and George by Struan Rodger.

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