Secret Service

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Secret Service is a play by William Gilette (1853–1937) [1]

The original text

Written by the actor-manager William Gillette in 1895, the play deals with the American Civil War and is set in Richmond, 1864) it tells the story of Captain Thorne, a Union undercover agent, who poses as a Confederate officer and falls in love with a Southern belle. The play retails his successful juggling of these conflicting loyalities.

Secret Service opened on 13 May, 1895, at the Broad Street Theatre, Philadelphia, and was published in 1898 by Samuel French Ltd.

When Gillette starred as "Capt. Thorne" in the New York production a few years later, it made him a national celebrity.

Translations and adaptations

In 1912 what is today known as a "novelization" of the play was done by Cyrus Townsend Brady under the title Secret Service. Being the happenings of a night in Richmond in the spring of 1865, and published as the work of both authors by Grosset and Dunlap.

The play was also twice filmed (both times as Secret Service): In 1919 produced by Famous Players-Lasky and directed by Hugh Ford, as a silent film starring Robert Warwick, and distributed by Paramount Pictures.[2]

In 1931 it was remade as a talking picture by RKO in 1931, once more with Warwick in the leading role, now directed by J. Walter Ruben to a script by Bernard Schubert, and released on November 14, 1931, by RKO Pictures.[3]

Performance history in South Africa

1898: Performed in middle of the year in South Africa by a company under the management of the Wheeler Brothers, as part of a repertoire that also included The Tree of Knowledge (Carton), A Marriage of Convenience (Dumas/Grundy) and My Friend, The Prince (McCarthy). The company included George Hippisley, Wilton Heriot, Jessie Bateman, Mabel Lane and Sallie Booth.

1904: Performed on tour by the Frawley Company, also under the auspices of the Wheeler Brothers, appearing in in Cape Town in the early part of the year.


Facsimile version for the 1912 novel, The Project Gutenberg eBook[4]

D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.406, 418

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays

Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays

Return to PLAYS III: Collections

Return to PLAYS IV: Pageants and public performances

Return to South African Festivals and Competitions

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page