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Charley's Aunt is a farce in three acts written by Brandon Thomas. It broke all historic records for plays of any kind, with an original London run of 1,466 performances.

The play was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmundsmarker on 29 February 1892. It was produced by former D'Oyly Carte Opera Company actor, W. S. Penley, a friend of Thomas's, who appeared in the principal role of Lord Fancourt Babberly. Thomas himself played Sir Francis Chesney. The piece was a success, and it then opened in Londonmarker at the Royalty Theatremarker on 21 December 1892 and quickly transferred to the larger Globe Theatremarker on 30 January 1893 to complete its record-breaking run.

It opened on Broadwaymarker at the Standard Theatre on 2 October 1893, where it ran for another historic long run of four years. The play also toured internationally (with long runs in Parismarker and elsewhere) and was revived extensively.

Adaptations

Silent film versions of the play were released in 1915 and 1925, the latter featuring Sydney Chaplin (brother of Charlie Chaplin) and Ethel Shannon.

A "talkie" film version starring Charles Ruggles was released in 1930, and is one of the earliest "talkie" comedies. Arthur Askey took the leading role in a 1940 British film Charley's Aunt that developed themes from the original play. Perhaps the best known film version was released in 1941, directed by Archie Mayo and starring Jack Benny in the principal role.

Poster for the 1930 film version.
A Broadway musical version, Where's Charley? written by Frank Loesser and starring Ray Bolger, ran between 1948 and 1950 at the St. James Theatre, was made into a 1952 film (with Bolger repeating his stage role), and began a successful run in London in 1958.

On March 28, 1957, CBS television in the U.S. aired a live production on Playhouse 90, starring Art Carney and Orson Bean. It was directed by Arthur Penn.

A Sovietmarker version was made for television in 1975, entitled Hello, I'm Your Aunt!. It was also a musical, but had nothing to do with the Broadway version. The film's title is a Russianmarker figure of speech, exclaimed when somebody receives shocking news they can hardly believe (akin to the English phrase, "Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!"). The film was an immense hit, and many lines of dialogue subsequently became catch phrases themselves.

The Danishmarker version was a 1959 theatrical movie release starring notable comedy actor Dirch Passer in the principal role. Other notable Danish actors in the production were Ove Sprogøe, Ghita Nørby and Susse Wold. In the film, Passer sings the song "Det er svært at være en kvinde nu til dags" (English: "It is hard to be a woman nowadays"). Passer premiered his role in Charley's Tante in 1958 at the ABC Theatre where it was a gigantic hit, and played for 1½ years.

The play's story also proved to be popular in Germanymarker, with at least 4 different versions being released in 1934, 1956 (starring the immensely popular Heinz Ruehmann), 1963 (this one from Austriamarker and starring Peter Alexander) and a television version in 1976.

In Spain, there's a well known version starring famous Spanish comedian Paco Martínez Soria. Filmed in 1981 titled La Tía de Carlos.

Synopsis

Charley Wykeham and Jack Chesney, undergraduates at Oxford Universitymarker, need a chaperon so they can entertain Amy Spettigue and Kitty Verdun, the niece and ward of Stephen Spettigue, an Oxfordmarker solicitor. When Charley receives word from his guardian that his aunt, Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez, a rich widow from Brazilmarker ("where the nuts come from") whom he has never met, is coming to visit him, they invite Amy & Kitty to lunch to meet her. But when the aunt's visit is delayed they persuade their friend Lord Fancourt Babberly to impersonate her.

Charley and Jack intend to declare their love to their sweethearts so, wanting Lord Fancourt out of the way, they invite Jack's father as well. But to their exasperation Lord Fancourt is less interested in Jack's father than flirting with the girls. Then the real aunt (not the dotty dowager imagined by Lord Fancourt but an attractive woman of middle age) arrives with her adopted 'niece' Miss Ela Delahay, an orphan. It emerges that Ela's father, who had died a little while before, won at cards enough money to "make her independent for life".

The man from whom he won the money was Lord Babberly. Ela recollects the short romance that the two of them had, then Donna Lucia recollects a romance she had 20 years ago with Francis Chesney, Jack's father, who has just been wooing the fake Donna Lucia and does not recognise the real one.

Stephen Spettigue enters: he is introduced to the fake Dona Lucia, the "millionaire", and falls for her so that Lord Babberly, trying to get letters of consent from Spettigue for the boys' marriages, ends up receiving a written proposal of marriage from Spettigue. Charley is forced to confess to the enraged Spettigue who demands the letter back. The real Donna Lucia reveals herself and takes the letter, stating that it "is addressed to and has been delivered to Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez".

Spettigue storms off saying he'll dispute it and Amy, his niece, is upset at everyone for making a fool of him. Donna Lucia reassures her and gives the girls all the letters. In the end Sir Francis & Donna Lucia are engaged, Jack is with Kitty, and Charley with Amy and Ela ends up with Lord Fancourt.

Dramatis personae

  • Colonel Sir Francis Chesney - Father of Jack Chesney
  • Stephen Spettigue - Uncle of Amy Spettigue and guardian of Kitty Verdun, villain in the story
  • Jack Chesney - Oxford undergraduate in love with Kitty
  • Charles Wykeham - Oxford undergraduate in love with Amy
  • Lord Fancourt Babberley - Undergraduate pulled unwillingly into Jack and Charley's scheme.
  • Brassett - Jack Chesney's Valet
  • Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez - Charley's actual aunt from Brazil ("where the nuts come from")
  • Kitty Verdun - young woman, ward of Stephen Spettigue
  • Amy Spettigue - young woman, niece of Stephen Spettigue
  • Ela Delahay - young orphaned woman accompanying Donna Lucia (loved by Lord Fancourt Babberley)


Productions



Divadlo Na Jezerce



References

Notes

  1. http://books.google.com/books?id=tjwOAAAAIAAJ&pg=RA2-PA275&lpg=RA2-PA275&dq=%22charley's+aunt%22+%22globe+theatre%22+1892&source=web&ots=JeqK-DzSrc&sig=vZjpWR9efWOJ0xsWcVbfp3yld0s
  2. http://www.csfd.cz/film/111282-charleyova-teta/


Bibliography



External links




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