Friday, May 07, 2010

Pulitzer Prize for Drama 1918

The first Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded in 1918 to Jesse Lynch Williams for his play WHY MARRY? which can be read online here, although you are better off just reading the synopsis here because the plot description alone makes it clear that this is a total rip-off of the work of G. B. Shaw - at least all his plays about marriage and the "New Woman."

This explains why the play is never performed anymore - why do a Shaw-wannabe when you can do the real thing? I guess since Shaw wasn't eligible for the Pulitzer, not being American, they gave it to Williams in his stead.

I googled to see if critics of the time realized the total debt Williams owed to Shaw - I only found one review snippet so far, but Lawrence Gilman definitely got it:
We wish that Mr. Jesse Lynch Williams had not seen fit to disillusion us about Bernard Shaw when introducing to New York, with a journalistic preamble, his comedy Why Marry? One can understand Mr. Williams' anxiety to make quite clear and unmistakable to us the difference between his own outlook as a dramatist and the outlook of Mr. Shaw...

Yeah, Gilman was wise to the situation. Although it's funny to read him describe Shaw as being in his autumnal years, when Shaw, by dying at age 94 in 1950 outlived by decades Williams, who died in 1929 at age 58, and Gilman who died at 61 in 1939.

Best Shaw impersonation ever from Monty Python's "Oscar Wilde" sketch - also known as the "your majesty is like a stream of bat's piss" sketch. Terry Jones plays the Prince of Wales, John Cleese is James MacNeill Whistler, Graham Chapman is Oscar Wilde and Michael Palin is Shaw. Watching this sketch as a teenager was my first introduction to all four personages. So I always think of Shaw as blowing raspberries.

Shaw was a TOTAL ham. His comments about Mussolini are rather, ah... interesting.