Jane

S. N. Behrman
New York: Random House, 1952
First edition in dust jacket

Jane provides the final study by Behrman of a heroine imbued with a comic spirit. Opening in England as farce in 1947, then in Westport, Connecticut, as light comedy entitled The Foreign Language, and finally arriving on Broadway in 1952 as serious comedy, Jane never "jelled" in the judgment of Guild producer Theresa Helburn. In 1958 Behrman executed a fourth interpretation of Jane; or Youíre As Young As You Feel for a star-studded Off-Broadway company that operated for a time in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Based on a short story by W.S. Maugham, Jane portrays a wealthy matron-widow involved with a "youngman." Janeís young man is shockingly more than twenty years her junior, and the "arrangement" lies not beyond the charge of exploitation by her sister-in-law, a charge which Jane dismisses. The marriage does not survive, as her family had gloatingly forecast, but none of them seems capable of understanding the satisfying self-realization that Jane experienced on the way to her next matrimonial liaison with someone of her own age. With bright, witty repartee and characters who verge on comedy-of-manners archetypes, Jane suggests a retreat to sanctuary for Behrman following the severe critical reception of Dunniganís Daughter. Critics did indeed urge him to return to his forte, and Behrman appears to have taken immediate action with or without their advice. A number of years passed between Janeís initial debut in Blackpool, England, and the New York premiere. Behrman had, in the meantime, mounted two plays for Broadway: the commercially successful I Know My Love and the failed "Let Me Hear the Melody." He was credited with two Hollywood screenplays, The Pirate (1948) and Quo Vadis (1951); and his profile on Lord Joseph Duveen appeared in the pages of the New Yorker.


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