Anything Might Happen, 1923

Anything Might Happen

A comedy in three acts written, produced and directed by Edgar Selwyn

New York, Comedy Theatre, 1923

Cast of Characters

Gladys Barry Ruth Findlay
Richard Keating Roland Young
Weeks Montague Rutherford
Hal Turner Leslie Howard
A Doorman C. Haviland Chappell
Helen Springer Estelle Winwood
Mrs. Springer Lucia Moore
A Walter Arthur Lubin
Mrs. Barry Isabel Garrison
Agnes Farrington Helen Cromwell
Howard Matthews C. Haviland Chappell
Maitre d’Hotel Arthur Lubin
Miss Wilson Joan Treffry
Miss Craig Florence Clarke

Summary

Act I.—Scene 1—Richard Keating’s Apartment. Scene-2—Entrance to Apartment House. Scene 3—In a Taxicab. Scene 4—Helen Springer’s Apartment.
Act II.—Richard Keating’s Apartment.
Act III.—Scene 1—The Barry Apartment. Scene 2—A Corner in a Restaurant. Scene 3— Helen Springer’s Apartment.

Richard Keating, jilted by his fiancee because he has failed to stir her imagination, walks out of his apartment house into a rainstorm and, practically, also into the arms of Helen Springer. They meet, they dine, they get amusingly tipsy on Richard’s last bottle of champagne, they think they are in love and they are discovered. Richard’s fiancee looks them up, and Miss Springer’s discarded young man threatens complications. In the end they are properly paired and happy.
(Burns-Mantle, The Best Plays of 1922-123)

Notes

Edgar Selwyn was one of the first producers to recognize and magnanimously admit the change. Some seasons ago he put on a play of his own authorship called Anything Might Happen. Observing the reviewers during the course of its first and second acts and gifted with a touch of clairvoyance, he knew that they were certain to roast the play to a turn. What was more, seeing his play in production before an audience, he appreciated that it was hardly what he thought it would be. So he hurried out into the rear of the box-office, seized a sheet of paper, wrote something on it, and ordered his press-agent to hustle forth, dig up some all-night printer, and have a dozen copies of what he had written struck off instanter. Barey had the reviewers returned to their offices to write their scathing reports on the play–Selwin shrewdly saw it that the third-act curtain was sufficiently delayed–than they received this card:
“Mr. Edgar Selwyn humbly apologizes to the critics for his play, Anything Might Happen, and asks their forgiveness for having inflicted it on them.”
The apology, of course, couldn’t kill the critics’ first-night notices, but it took all the wind out of any subsequent Sunday blasts they may have had in mind.
(George J. Nathan, The Theatre Book of the Year, 1942-1943, p.168-169)

Reviews

Given an eminently solvent young clubman who has been jilted and who, in his grief and humiliation, throws himself upon a rainy world in quest of adventure–anything might happen. Add unto him his bosom friend, who has also been given the mitten, and the possibilities are raised to the power of ten. Roland Young and Leslie Howard play these jilted twain, and they make a good start in a world of farcical adventure by taking on with each other’s fiancée–Estelle Winwood and Leone Morgan–indentities being artfully concealed by Edgar Selwyn, author.
[…] By the third act it becomes evident that really nothing has happened or can happen, and one doesn’t particularly care. For by this time Mr. Young and Mr. Howard, Mill Winwood and even the rather charming and single-minded Leone Morgan have ceased to be real people, even people of a real farce, and have become a phantasmagoria of off-again-on-again nightmare.
[…] There was considerable laughter last night, apparently spontaneous, which came, however, from the outlying regions of the audience. Since anything might happen, it is not impossible that this play will win some sort of success.
But of real phantasy and adventure it offer little or nothing.
(John Corbin, The New York Times, February 21, 1923)

No doubt there are persons who want to see Mr. Young in anything, and we cannot exactly blame them, for he is certainly sui generis. Miss Winwood, too, is entitled to her host of loyal admirers. Of the rest of the cast Leslie Howard, as the other young man, also jilted, and Montague Rutherford, as a butler, deserve special mention.
“Anything Might Happen” is a commonplace and intermittently amusing farce, excellently acted.
(Anita Block, New York Call, February 23, 1923)

Edgar Selwyn has written a comedy of mannerly intoxication. Anything might happen, but what actually does is rather amusing than important. Two of Manhattan’s most impeccable recently-jilted (Roland Young and Leslie Howard) become inextricably involved with each other’s fiancees until the last act, when an extensive readjustment takes place.
Most of the hilarity centers about a quart bottle of champagne, on which one of the young blades (Mr. Young and one of the ex-fiancées (Estelle Winwood) get unwarrantably but agreeably mellow. Other indignities offered the recent amendment are highballs in the first act, cocktails before the champagne, and a pitcher of some obscure intoxicant in a restaurant scene.
One of the notable features of the play is Leslie Howard’s anglicised delivery of American colloquialism. Another is a polite flirtation in a taxicab, to the accompaniment of a clicking meter.
(Time, March 3, 1923)

The most conspicuous example of what a good cast can do for a play is in “Anything Might Happen.” Mr. Edgar Selwyn has written an extremely medium-grade farce containing nothing much that is good. True, it contains nothing much that is bad, but that is almost excessive praise for it. He has, however, had the acumen to gather together Roland Young, Estelle Winwood and Leslie Howard and get them to hoist the thing on their shoulders and prance lightly with it through three acts which, as a result, turn out to be quite amusing after all.
(Robert Benchley, 1923, reproduced in The Lost Algonquin Round Table, edited by Nat Benchley and Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, p. 95)

Leslie Howard in Anything might happen

Estelle Winwood, Roland Young, Leone Morgan and Leslie Howard in Anything Might Happen

Anything Might Happen, 1923
Leslie Howard in Anything Might Happen

Leslie Howard in Anything Might Happen

Anything Might Happen, 1923