On Philip Barry


Today is the birthday of the great Broadway playwright Philip Barry (1896-1949). Everyone knows his most famous creation The Philadelphia Story (1939), so I thought I’d share a few notes about a couple of his other scripts that have fallen by the wayside over the years. That is, if you feel like reading plays; people almost never do. I periodically make myself do so as a matter of professional necessity…

Holiday (1928), sparkling, witty and wise. A businessman is marrying into a rich family but throws a monkey wrench into the works by announcing that, having closed a big deal, that he wants to retire and “find himself”. In the end he hooks up with his fiance’s sister, who shares his nonconformist philosophy. Full of very funny lines and also poignant in parts. Was filmed for the screen twice, in 1930 and 1938.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1931) That classic melodramatic device, the ships that pass in the night. Bored wife of wealthy businessman in a rural location…a famous young doctor comes to stay with them while lecturing at a local college…a romance…an illicit child. Years later the doctor comes back when the child falls ill and learns the truth…will romantic love win out? No, she chooses the husband. This one is more of a drama but still full of Barry’s witty, sparkling dialogue, and even some philosophy reminiscent of Shaw…influence of Neitzsche and Bergson in a gobbledegook sort of way. He seems to have a fondness for the love triangle in most of his plays.

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