Paddy the Next Best Thing

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Paddy the Next Best Thing is a play based on the book of the same name written by Anglo-Rhodesian novelist Gertrude Page (1872-1922). It was adapted for the stage by W. Gayer Mackay and Robert Ord. In England it was first staged by Robert Courtneidge, who imported American actress Peggy O’Neil for the title role. It opened at the Savoy Theatre in London on 5 April 1920 and ran for more than 850 performances.

There were at least two film versions, a silent one with Mae Marsh, directed by Graham Cutts (1923), and a sound one with Janet Gaynor, directed by Harry Lachman (1933).

Performance history in South Africa

1921 – It was a great success for the repertory company of visiting actress Gertrude Elliott (Lady Forbes-Robertson). First performed in Durban, it featured the acting debut of Jean Forbes-Robertson, who initially used the stage name of Anne McEwen. In Johannesburg it opened at His Majesty’s Theatre on 10 May 1921. The cast consisted of Gertrude Elliott (Paddy Adair), Wilfred Forster (General Adair), William Mollison (Jack O’Hara), Alexander Haviland (Micky, a butler), Ivan Samson (Laurence Blake), H. Lane Bayliff (Lord Sellaby), George de Lara (Dr. Davy Adair), Vivienne Whitaker (Gwendoline Carew), Maud Buchanan (Mrs. O’Hara), Beatrice Rowe (Mary O’Hara), Anne McEwen (Eileen Adair), Maud Buchanan (Mrs. Putter), Margaret Arthur (Mrs. Bingle), Shelagh Hornby (Webb, a maid). It was produced by William Mollison.

There were a number of amateur productions, including one by the Thalian Amateur Comedy Company (Jewish Guild/1931), another featuring Kathleen Kelly in the title role (Library Theatre/1945) and one by the Playfair Players (Library Theatre/1948). These were usually used as fund raisers for various charities.

When, in 1921, Naomi Rutherford went to England, she joined one of Robert Courtneidge’s touring companies and had a great success in the title role.

In 1935, Anna Cloete appeared in an Afrikaans translation of the play. It may be a coincidence, but her daughter with James Norval was named Paddy (Paddy Norval)


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