Miss Mabel (1950)

Miss Mabel (1950)

Miss Mabel is a 1948 stage play by R. C. Sherriff. It has been adapted for television at least five times.

1950 – A play in three acts, produced by Joel Shenker as a summer theatre touring package.

Advance director: Jerome Coray

With Charles Francis, Wallace Clark, Mark Roberts, Harry Bannister, Victor Beecroft, Gwen Anderson, Marie Carroll, Bethel Long.

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Subsequent cast changes throughout tour as well as resident actors playing different roles in each theatre (Dorothy and Lillian Gish by Lillian Gish)

Also, a live version aired as part of British anthology series BBC Sunday Night Theatre in 1950. Cast included Mary Jerrold, Clive Morton, Richard Warner, W. E. Holloway, Josephine Middleton, Herbert C. Walton, Anne West, Ronald Marriott, Rowland Winterton and Anthony Farmer. It was performed on 26 March 1950 with a repeat performance on 29 March 1950. Both performances are lost, as the live broadcasts were not recorded.

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Rehearsals for Miss Mabel went smoothly, once we learned to anticipate interruptions over which we had no control, like the noise and whistling from the trains. We had an idea of their schedule, so we could time when we were going to have our words drowned during matinees and evening. Whoever was talking would just remain in place and not say a word until the train had passed. Clarence Derwent, for all his impressive British training and background, was a very casual actor. He had a very relaxed delivery, and he didn’t like to wear any makeup other than his costume.

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Once, on a matinee day, he came to the theatre from a long walk in the woods just before half-hour. He put on his costume and he took his seat on a soft chair onstage as the curtain went up, which he was supposed to do. A few minutes into the performance, he fell asleep.

The audience didn’t know what was happening, but onstage, including Lillian, did. Clarence wasn’t snoring.  He had leaned back and closed his eyes.

Lillian looked over in his direction, and very casually, during the course of the scene, tiptoed behind the chair where Clarence was sitting. She placed her hand on his shoulder leaned over, and blew on his neck!

Miss Mabel (1950) Lillian Gish and Clarence Derwent

She might have whispered something which only he could have heard, but Clarence opened his eyes and said his line as if the action were rehearsed!

Whether she gave him a dressing down afterwards we never knew. But he never took any morning walks on a matinee day. And he never closed his eyes in that chair for the rest of the run!

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When Miss Mabel company flew to the Bahamas to play an engagement at the Royal Colonial Theatre, Lillian made a star’s demand: to allow Malcolm, her West Highland terrier who had been with her since The Old Maid (1936), to ride next to her on the plane.

Lillian Gish: A Life on Stage and Screen – Stuart Oderman

Lillian Gish and Malcolm
Lillian Gish and Malcolm

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