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.
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.
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.
Go to ESAT Bibliography
Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays
Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays
Return to PLAYS III: Collections
Return to South African Festivals and Competitions
Return to The ESAT Entries
Return to Main Page