Authors: John Patrick

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright and screenwriter

Author Works

Drama:

Hell Freezes Over, pr. 1935

The Story of Mary Surratt, wr. 1940, pr., pb. 1947

The Willow and I, pr. 1942

The Hasty Heart, pr., pb. 1945

The Curious Savage, pr. 1950

Lo and Behold!, pr. 1951

The Teahouse of the August Moon, pr. 1953 (adaptation of Vern Sneider’s novel)

Good as Gold, pr. 1957

Everybody Loves Opal, pr. 1961

Love Is a Time of Day, pr. 1969

Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, pr., pb. 1970 (music and lyrics by Stan Freeman and Franklin Underwood)

Opal Is a Diamond, pr. 1971

Anybody Out There?, pb. 1972

Opal’s Husband, pr., pb. 1975

Noah’s Animal: A Musical Allegory, pr. 1975

The Girls of the Garden Club, pr. 1979

Opal’s Million Dollar Duck, pr. 1979

That’s Not My Father! Three One Act Plays, pr. 1979 (includes Raconteur, Fettucine, and Masquerade)

That’s Not My Mother! Three One Act Plays, pr. 1979 (includes Seniority, Redemption, and Optimism)

People, pb. 1980

The Gay Deceiver, pb. 1988

Sense and Nonsense, pb. 1989

The Doctor Will See You Now: Four One-Act Plays, pb. 1991

Screenplays:

Educating Father, 1936 (with Katherine Kavanaugh and Edward T. Lowe)

15 Maiden Lane, 1936 (with others)

High Tension, 1936 (with others)

Thirty-six Hours to Live, 1936 (with Lou Breslow)

Big Town Girl, 1937 (with others)

Born Reckless, 1937 (with others)

Dangerously Yours, 1937 (with Breslow)

The Holy Terror, 1937 (with Breslow)

Look Out, Mr. Moto, 1937 (with others)

Midnight Taxi, 1937 (with Breslow)

One Mile from Heaven, 1937 (with others)

Sing and Be Happy, 1937 (with Breslow and Ben Markson)

Time Out for Romance, 1937 (with others)

Battle of Broadway, 1938 (with Breslow)

International Settlement, 1938 (with others)

Mr. Moto Takes a Chance, 1938 (with others)

Up the River Heaven, 1938 (with Breslow and Maurine Watkins)

Enchantment, 1948

The President’s Lady, 1953 (based on Irving Stone’s novel)

Three Coins in the Fountain, 1954 (based on John H. Secondari’s novel)

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, 1955 (based on Han Suyin’s novel)

High Society, 1956 (based on Philip Barry’s play The Philadelphia Story)

The Teahouse of the August Moon, 1956 (adaptation of Vern Sneider’s novel and Patrick’s play)

Les Girls, 1957 (with Vera Caspary; based on Caspary’s novel)

Some Came Running, 1958 (with Arthur Sheekman; based on James Jones’s novel)

The World of Susie Wong, 1960 (adaptation of Richard Mason’s novel and Paul Osborn’s play)

The Main Attraction, 1962

Gigot, 1962 (with Jackie Gleason)

The Shoes of the Fisherman, 1968 (with James Kennaway)

Teleplay:

The Small Miracle, 1972 (with Arthur Dales; adaptation of Paul Gallico’s novel)

Radio Plays:

Cecil and Sally, 1929-1933 (series; 1,100 scripts)

Biography

John Patrick was one of the most prolific American playwrights on record. In addition to some fifty plays, he was the author of thirty screenplays (many adapted from novels or plays), more than a thousand radio plays, and a television play. Although his plays range in genre and subject matter, the majority are comedies and evidence their author’s craftsmanship and comedic talent. Born John Patrick Goggan in Louisville, Kentucky, he spent a portion of his youth in boarding schools and later attended Holy Cross College in New Orleans. In the 1930’s Patrick began his career in San Francisco as a National Broadcasting Company (NBC) scriptwriter and earned a reputation for radio dramatizations of novels. Patrick first reached Broadway in 1935 with Hell Freezes Over, a short-lived melodrama about polar explorers in Antarctica. Returning to California, he became a Hollywood screenwriter and developed his craft by writing thirty-odd screenplays between 1936 and 1968 for major studios. Leaving Hollywood (to which he often returned for screenwriting assignments) in the late 1930’s, he established himself in Boston, where he wrote The Willow and I, a psychological drama about two destructive sisters competing for the same man, and The Story of Mary Surratt, a historical drama about the Washington landlady hanged by a vengeful military tribunal for suspected complicity in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Both plays received Broadway productions in the 1940’s, but neither was a box office success.{$I[AN]9810001731}{$I[A]Patrick, John}{$S[A]Goggan, John Patrick;Patrick, John}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Patrick, John}{$I[tim]1905;Patrick, John}

In 1942 Patrick joined the American Field Service in World War II, serving overseas as a captain with a British ambulance unit in Egypt, India, Burma, and Syria. His wartime experience furnished the background for the 1945 play The Hasty Heart, which centers on a dour, terminally ill Scottish sergeant sent to a British military hospital ward in Southeast Asia, where he remains unaware that his illness will bring an early death. His wardmates, knowing the prognosis, find their extended friendship rejected by the play’s misanthropic protagonist, whose suspicious, inflexible, and independent nature makes him distrust human relationships. He gradually warms to his companions, but when learning of his fatal condition, he interprets their proffered fellowship as pity. Ultimately he comes to accept his wardmates’ good will, poignantly demonstrating Patrick’s premise that human interdependency is crucially important. The play enjoyed both critical and popular success and demonstrated its author’s growth as a dramatist in dealing more incisively with plot structure, characterization, and the effect of inner states of mind on conduct and character.

The fruits of his first stage success permitted Patrick to purchase a sixty-five acre farm in Rockland County, New York, which he appropriately called Hasty Hill. There he lived casually as a gentleman farmer, raised sheep, remained unmarried, and continued to write. Turning to comedy, Patrick wrote The Curious Savage, whose heroine is a wealthy, eccentric widow whose lavish endowment of a foundation financing people’s daydreams gets her committed by mendacious stepchildren to a sanitorium. The sanitorium’s inmates prove more attractive than her own sane family, and they help her outwit the latter. Continuing in the comic vein, Patrick followed with Lo and Behold!, a comedy-fantasy about a solitude-loving writer who, after stipulating in his will that his house be kept vacant as a sanctuary, returns as a ghost to find it occupied by three incompatible spirits. Both comedies had only short runs on Broadway in the early 1950’s, but The Curious Savage has enjoyed lasting popularity with community theater audiences.

Following these plays Patrick created his most successful comedy and achieved a Broadway triumph with The Teahouse of the August Moon, based on a novel by Vern Sneider. The play is a satire on the American Army of Occupation’s attempts following World War II to bring democracy to the people of Okinawa. A young colonel with a spotty record abandons standard Occupation procedure and builds a teahouse the villagers have longed for and a distillery that brings them prosperity. His unorthodox practices are condemned by his commanding officer but ultimately supported by Congress. Establishing its author’s reputation as an American dramatist, the play captivated audiences and critics alike to become one of America’s most successful dramas, winning both the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Patrick adapted it later as a screenplay and still later as the book for a short-lived musical called Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen.

Patrick was also the author of a number of comedies that, while attaining neither Broadway acclaim nor, in some cases, New York productions, have proved popular with regional theaters. His comic plays, like the best of his serious ones, are marked by cleverly conceived situations, well-drawn characters, effective dialogue, and a compassionate view of the human species and its frailties. The Teahouse of the August Moon is Patrick’s masterwork, representing the pinnacle of his achievement as a major craftsman of the American theater.

BibliographyAtkinson, Brooks. Review of The Teahouse of the August Moon, by John Patrick. The New York Times, October 16, 1953, p. 32. Calls Patrick’s most successful play a “light and sagacious comedy” and “ingratiating.” Atkinson praises Patrick as a stylist for the “piece of erotic make-believe in a style as intimate as a fairy story.”Atkinson, Brooks. “Theatre: Good as Gold.” Review of Good as Gold, by John Patrick. The New York Times, March 8, 1957, p. 22. Patrick’s playwriting, according to Atkinson, indicates “a refreshing lack of reverence for the people who process and implement our society,” but “he does not drive straight on through the entire evening in the key of the opening scenes.”Borak, Jeffrey. “Compelling ‘Heart’ at BTF.” Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Mass.), August 17, 1990. A review of The Hasty Heart. Provides a strong discussion of characters, especially Lachlen and Margaret, and gives credit to director Richard Dunlap for giving “unsentimental attention to detail in both the staging and the playing of Patrick’s wartime romance.”Watts, Richard, Jr. “A Thoroughly Delightful Comedy.” Review of The Teahouse of the August Moon, by John Patrick. Post (New York), October 16, 1953. Watts calls the play “a wise, gently satirical and beautifully understanding dramatic fantasy” about East and West. Provides a longer discussion of the play’s themes and structure than most reviews offer of this “smiling tribute to the human spirit and the capacity of mankind for mutual understanding.”
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