Of Thee I Sing

Broadway Revival (1952)

Trivia & History

Originally to be produced by Herman Levin and Oliver Smith. It took Levin two years to convince writers George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin to give their permission for a revival. Part of the problem was Kaufman's association with producer Max Gordonand the assumption that Gordon would be the first to get the rights for a new production.

Levin and Smith had wanted Kaufman to direct.

In June 1951, Levin and Smith scrapped their revival citing casting difficulties. It later came out the Paul Hartman and Robert Cummings, the sought-after stars, were demanding percentages that were too high for the budget. (Hartman eventually ended up starring in the revival.)


In July 1951, Anthony B. Farrell and Chandler Cowles announced their intention to produce the show with George S. Kaufman directing. Farrell eventually dropped out and Ben Segal took his place.


Originally, the revival was to contain two additional songs. In the end, "Mine" from Let 'Em Eat Cake was interpolated. Several lyrics were revised to update them. One was to omit the term "depression" and substitute it with "taxation". The other was to substitute the word "moratorium" for "foreign policy".


Producer Chandler Cowles approached Alfred Drake about taking the role of Wintergreen.


Victor Moore (who played Vice President Throttlebottom in the original Broadway production) expressed interest in returning to the stage. He had been in semi-retirement living in California since 1947. He signed his contract in February 1952. However, just before rehearsals began in March, Moore was hospitalized with pneumonia. Because of his health, the 76-year-old Moore withdrew and was replaced by Paul Hartman.

Moore sent Hartman a telegram on opening night saying "My Dear Paul – I tried to send you a wire for your opening but the strike was on and no soap, but I hope you'll have a great success in my old part, and I do not know of anyone I would rather see have it than you. Victor Moore."


To help raise money, music supervisor David Craig held a series of one-man backers auditions in Boston, New Haven and Philadelphia in which he played the piano and sang all of the roles.


Rehearsals began on March 10, 1952 at the Public Theatre.


Harry Clark withdrew from the production in late March. It is unclear which role he was to have played. Pat O'Malley and Robert F. Simon, however, joined the cast a couple of days later.


During the Phildelphia tryout, Lenore Lonergan (Diana Devereaux) gave notice because she didn't feel suited for the role. Patricia Finch was to have replaced her on April 25, but Lonergan stayed.


Helen Tamiris resigned during the tryout and Jack Donahue replaced her as choreographer.


Abe Burrows was brought in prior to Broadway to work on the show as director.


The preview performance on May 3 was presented to benefit The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers. The May 6 performance was a benefit for The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.


It had been scheduled to closed on Saturday, June 7 after slow ticket sales but it remained open. Part of the reason that it remained open was that Billy Rose, owner of the Ziegfeld Theatre where the show was playing, stepped in and offered the use of the theatre rent-free for the summer. In addition, he waived the weekly rental fee for $45,000 worth of lighting equipment. Subsequently, everyone connected with the show agreed to work for the minimum salaries of their respective unions and ticket prices were drastically reduced (the actors, from the stars to the ensemble members, were all paid $80/week).

The sacrifices weren't enough and the production closed on July 5.


The production cost roughly $240,000 and required 226 investors. One put up $15,000 but no one else put up more than $4000 each.


Florenz Ames played The French Ambassador in this production, the original Broadway cast, and the Broadway return engagement. He also played General Snookfield in the 1933 sequel Let 'Em Eat Cake (both the Broadway cast and national tour).



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