Candle-light, 1929

Candle-light

a comedy in three acts by Siegfried Geyer
adapted by P.G. Wodehouse

Gilbert Miller producer and director

September 30, 1929
Empire Theatre, Broadway

Cast of Characters

Prince Rudolf Haseldorf-Schlobitten Reginald Owen
Josef, his valet Leslie Howard
Baron Von Rischenheim Robert English
Baroness Von Rischenheim Betty Schuster
Liserl Rita Vale
Marie Gertrude Lawrence
A Waiter Ralph Roberts
Koeppke, a chauffeur Jack Carlton

The action takes place between seven and ten o’clock of an evening in December, in Prince Rudolf’s apartment.
The title is from the old quotation: “Choose neither a woman nor linen by candle-light.”

Cover of the Samuel French edition of Candle-light

Cover of the Samuel French edition of Candle-light

The three-act harlequinade that creates the occasion is adapted from the German by P.G. Wodehouse, and adapted superlatively at least for the opening act. […]
Just as you are settling down with a purr of delight, you discover that the playwright is reaching the end of his invention. […]
Even without the excitement of comedy to music, Miss Lawrence is remakably consoling to gaze upon – lithe and vital and steadily interesting. […] Miss Lawrence has the talent and presence of the true comedienne.
Reginald Owen and Leslie Howard, who have been playing these starched comedy parts for some time, are superbly adroit as the master and the servant.
(J. Brooks Atkinson, New York Times, October 1, 1929)

Reginald Owen plays the prince as if he had grown up with princes of the kind; Leslie Howard indicates, sometimes with surprising subtlety, the comic nuances of the character of the valet. And Gertrude Lawrence brings to the playing of comedy most of the little tricks and charms that have made her a delight in comedy with music. Rita Vale and Betty Schuster are attractive young actresses. All nice people, all skillful, all winning. But they play more like nice people than like actors, who know exactly what is required of them by “Candle-Light”.
(Arthur Pollock, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 1, 1929)

The plot is the one Plautus and Terence thought up centuries ago about the master and the man changing places for the success of their peccadillos.
In this instance Gertrude, being an ambitious lady’s maid, flirts with Leslie Howard, a perfect prince’s perfect man, over the telephone. Agreeing to call at his apartments, she meets Leslie, thinking him the prince, and he meets her, thinking her a grand lady. He always has so wanted to flirt with a real lady. He tires of maids and nurses, with perhaps a governess at Christmas time.
It is a grand game of pretense until the prince returns unexpectedly. Then it becomes more and more embarrassing as he enters into the sport by pretending to be his own valet in order that Leslie may carry on with Gertrude.
In the end everybody is unmasked and nothing much has happened. The first act is prompting, the other two disappointing. Howard is a little too fine a type to be accepted easily as a valet. Miss Lawrence apes a lady a little too well to help the fun. Only Reginald Owen as the prince is happily in character.
(Burns Mantle, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 13, 1929)

Candle-light - The Stage

Candle-light – The Stage

Candle-light

Robert English, Reginald Owen, Leslie Howard and Gertrude Lawrence in Candle-light

Candle-light

Leslie Howard, Reginald Owen and Gertrude Lawrence in Candle-light