A Comedy, Five Titles – 1927-1934

Murray Hill was produced for the first time on September 29, 1927 at the Bijou Theatre, New York. The play was published by Samuel French.

Murray Hill

The same play was produced for the first time in England under the title Collecting Cousins. Here is the announcement published in the Daily Mirror of May 23, 1928:

New Farce.– “Collecting Cousins,” by Leslie Howard, a young English actor, who is a star in America, is being tried out this week at Tunbridge Wells, and comes to London in a few weeks’ time. I am told that is a very hilarious entertainment. Iris Hoey and Morton Selten have plenty of “fat.”

Collecting Cousins was staged at the Pier Theatre, Eastbourne on May 28, 1928 (the programme says: “Prior to London Production” ), with the following cast: Iris Hoey, Hugh Dempster, Florence Le Clerq, Morton Selten, Clare Greet, Rupert Lucas, Fred W. Permain, Leslie Sparkes, Edna Davies.
Here is the reproduction of the original programme of this production I recently bought.

Collecting Cousins, 1928 Collecting Cousins, 1928

The same play was produced in London, on June 18, at the Ambassador’s Theatre, with the title Tell Me the Truth and a slightly different cast. Here is the review published on The Times, June 19, 1928:

Ambassador’s Theatre.

“TELL ME THE TRUTH.”
By LESLIE HOWARD.

Vane….. Stephen Adeson
Mrs. Cass…. Clare Greet
May Tweedle….  Florence Le Clerq
Elizabeth Tweedle…. Iris Hoey
George Appleway…. Morton Selten
Amelia Tweedie…. Edna Davies
Worthington Smythe…. Rupert Lucas
Wrigley … .. Hugh Dempster

On what slight theatrical fare may a pleasant evening be spent if only the service be good ! There is not much to keep body and soul together in the affair of the New York spinster who scandalizes the household by entering on a nocturnal escapade with a young man, subsequently proved to be her nephew, but the spinster. Miss Iris Hoey, the young man Mr. Rupert Lucas, and so well are we served by them and by others that only  now and then could we pause to scrutinize the menu a little anxiously. The elderly siren, as Mliss Hoey plays the part, can be the pretext for some good, high-spirited fooling. Elderly, we say, but mature would be perhaps a fairer word for Elizabeth Tweedle. She is vigorous, she is charming yet formidable, she has a gaily trenchant way of judging a situation or a character, and we do not wonder that her scapegrace nephew, even in one of his rare periods of sobriety, should find her society amusing. It is around her indomitable and perpetually entertaining figure that the farcical comedy described by its author as “a bit of tomfoolery” revolves. It spins with a pretty genial sparkle for two acts, and runs down through exhaustion of its motive power during almost the whole of the third. It is in the third act that everything has to be explained, and really there is nothing worth explaining. What more natural in the realm of farcical comedy than that a nephew depending on the good will of his aunts for a large legacy, and proposing to attend the obsequies of his benefactors in crushed evening clothes which he has worn for three days, should be restrained by the family solicitor ? that his place should be taken by a hired mourner, a personable young man who at first sight of the spinster aunt’s niece falls in love with her and she with him ? that, inspired by four cocktails, Elizabeth Tweedle should go off with her nephew to a night club ? and that these proceedings should gravely scandalize the rest of the family ? In the first two acts this not unfamiliar imbroglio is worked out with a careful regard for its comic possibilities, but there is no more to do in the last act than to restore names to their rightful owners. The neat sketches filled in by Miss Florence Le Clerq, Miss Edna Davies, and Mr. Morton Selten round off a nicely balanced production.

I bought a copy of the 1934 edition of Tell Me the Truth, published by Samuel French in 1934. Much to my confusion, I read in the copyright notice on the title page: Copyright, 1927 (under the title, “Tweedle Gets Married“),  by Leslie Howard.

Tell Me the TruthTell Me the Truth

Tell Me the Truth

The scene of “Tell Me the Truth”, in the 1934 Samuel French edition

The play was produced in Canada and in the United States in 1930, with the title Elizabeth Sleeps Out.

The play was produced again in London in 1934, at the Whitehall Theatre, with the title Elizabeth Sleeps Out. The reviewer who wrote on The Times of July 11, 1934, seems to be totally unaware of the 1928 production, to the point of considering Leslie Howard a mere adapter of his own play:

Whitehall Theatre
“ELIZABETH SLEEPS OUT”
By Leslie Howard (based on “Tell Me The Truth”)
Vane …………………… HENRY THOMPSoN
MrS. Cass ……………….. Lucy BEAUMONT
May Twvedle ……… ….. AMY VENESS
Elizabeth Tweedle ………….. HELEN HAYE
Mr. Appleway . …………. FRANK CELLIER
Amelia Tweedle ………….. MAISIE DARRELL
Worthington Smythe ………….. BILLY LEONARD
Wrigley …………… GEORGE K. ARTHUR

The best that can be said for this farce is that it makes us mildly curious to see the play on which it is based. In the story of two men who impersonate each other, one that he may please formidable aunts without the trouble of becoming sober, and the other that he may carry love at first sight a stage farther, there are farcical possibilities. They have escaped Mr. Howard, but in Tell Me the Truth they may all be realized. Mr. Howard’s is the kind of farce in which every one seems miscast. Miss Helen Haye can do little with the aunt whose frivolity, too long repressed, breaks out in a night-club escapade suggested by a nephew whom she supposes to be an ardent cavalier; Mr. Frank Cellier is ill at ease as a family lawyer with nothing to do but register surprise; Miss Maisie Darrell is asked to put her polished charm at the service of a demure Amelia; and Mr. Billy Leonard has to remain exuberantly tipsy through three acts. Mr. Arthur enjoys himself as the ” mortician ” who has all the surprises up his sleeve, but unfortunately he is still an actor of limited resources and does not communicate his enjoyment. Once or twice the farce seems about to come to life, but each time it plunges into prosiness or the worse kind of sentimentality.

In spite of the unfavourable reception of the 1934 production, the play was produced again in April 1936 in New York, at the Comedy Theatre, with the title Elizabeth Sleeps Out. Here is the cast:

Vane….. Edward Parker
Mrs. Cass…. Irene Britt
May Tweedle…. Marie Perrin
Elizabeth Tweedle…. Mercedes Ferrara
George Appleway…. Frank Armstrong
Amelia Tweedle…. Frances Turner
Worthington Smythe…. Dudley Barry
Wrigley…. Robert Bruce

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