Celebrating the life and work of Luise Rainer (1910 – 2014)
A Kiss for Cinderella (1942)
Luise Rainer marked her Broadway debut on Tuesday 10th March 1942 in J.M. Barrie’s A Kiss for Cinderella, at the Music Box Theatre, 45th Street. The play was written in 1916 and had its debuts in London and New York the same year, with Maude Adams creating the title role. It was revived a number of times between the wars notably in 1926 and again in 1937, and a silent film was made in 1925, starring Betty Bronson.
Inspired by the classic Cinderella fairytale, but set in the (then) modern-day of the First World War, a London girl (‘Miss Thing’) looks after four infant refugees but one night, during a snowstorm, she is found asleep in a doorway by a policeman…but she dreams that he is Prince Charming and that she is being whisked away to the his Highness’ Ball. Barrie updates the traditional story with a Red Cross Nurse taking the role of ‘Fairy Godmother’ and a Cockney whom our heroine sees as the ‘King’. The framing of the story around a down-and-out char-girl whose flights of fancy really do take flight allows for some fantastical staging and effects to bring her dreamworld to life.
It’s easy to see why a revival seemed fitting during the Second World War, but one senses times and attitudes had changed somewhat. Previous productions had garnered positive reviews but the Boston Post’s Mark Barron expressed his view that the fantasy elements of the play made it “too sugary for such hardbitten times as these” (March 1942), although Brooks Atkinson in the New York Times was more forgiving of the effect time had had on the play.
The play ran for 48 performances in New York, ending on April 18th 1942. It had aleady toured the East Coast, appearing at the Cape Playhouse in Cape Cod, and the Maplewood Theatre, New Jersey on the ‘straw hat circuit’. An interesting side note to this production is the story of a then unknown young actor called Robert Ryan who, looking for work, ingratiated himself with some of the cast whilst they were playing in Cape Cod. He left a particular impression on Luise and, when they moved on to Maplewood she introduced him to her ex-husband Clifford Odets, who was about to start rehearsals for his new play Clash by Night. They liked Ryan and he was cast as ‘Joe Doyle’ opposite Tallulah Bankhead. The production toured briefly before hitting Broadway. Although the reviews were scathing, Ryan received good notices and was spotted by Pate Lorentz of film studio RKO who immediately offered him a contract. He signed and went off to Hollywood to become a leading man in movies for the next 20 years.
Cast (in order of appearance):
Cecil Humphreys as Mr. Bodie / King Ralph Forbes as the Policeman / Prince Luise Rainer as Miss Thing Victor Morley as Mr. Jennings / Lord Mayor Emily Loraine as Mrs. Maloney Doris Patston as Marion Le Roi Operti as Coster / Bishop Abby Bonime as Gladys Elizabeth Leland as Delphine Marilyn Chu as Ching Ching Patsy O’Shea as Gretchen Edith King as Godmother / Dr. Bodie Elinor Breckinridge, Helen Kramer, Jean Reeves, Lukas Hovinga, John Taras, Robert Wilson as Courtiers Victor Chapin, Fred Hunter as Pages
Roland Bottomley as Lord Times Glen Langan as Censor / Danny
Ivy Troutman as Queen
Jacqueline Gately as Beauty / Ellen
Blanche Faye, Olga Daley, Doris Hughes, Beatrice Cole as Beauties
Eunice Lee as Venus
Sarah Burton as Nurse
Presented by Cheryl Crawford and Richard W. Krakeur
Staged by Lee Strasberg
Settings by Harry Horner
Choreography by Catherine Littlefield
Costumes by Paul du Pont
These credits are taken from the programme for the production at The Music Box, New York City, NY, USA (10 March – 18 April 1942). Credits for other venues may differ.