The Light that Failed

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The Light that Failed is the name of two plays, both based on Kipling's 1891 eponymous novel.

The Light that Failed a novel by Rudyard Kipling (1891)

This was the first novel written by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)[1], and was first published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine from January 1891, and later published in four different versions over the ensuing two years. Largely set in London, with some important scenes in in Sudan and Port Said, the novel tells of the unrequited love of Dick Heldar, a painter who goes blind, for Maisie.

The novel was twice adapted for the stage and was also filmed three times: as a silent film by Pathé (1916) and by Famous Players-Lasky (1923), and as a sound film by Paramount in 1939, starring Ronald Colman and Walter Huston.

The stage versions

The Light that Failed a play by C. Thorpe ()

The first stage version, using the original "sad" ending, was done by Courtney Thorpe ()[] in 1898, and was performed at the Royalty Theatre in London with Courtney Thorpe as "Dick". , Frank Atherley as "Torpenhow", and Furtado Clarke as "Maisie".

The Light that Failed a play by George Fleming (1903)

George Fleming (pseudonym of Constance Fletcher()[]) did a new stage adaptation of the novel, using the "happy" ending. It opened at the Lyric Theatre, London, on 7 February 1903 and ran for 148 performancesto April 1903, before it was produced at the Knickerbocker Theatre, New York, by Klaw & Erlanger, running from 9 November 9 into December, 1903.

Performance history of all versions in South Africa

1904: Performed as part of a repertoire of three plays done on a tour of the cities by Mrs and Mr Robert Brough and their company under the Wheeler Company management. They appeared in the Good Hope Theatre, Cape Town, from 26 February onwards. According to Bosman's source, D.C. Boonzaier (1923), the play was as "as dull as the book from which it was taken". According to F.C.L. Bosman (1980: p. 419) they used the Thorpe version, however it sounds far more likely that this may have been the most recent and popular version by Fletcher.


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: p.419

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