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BALDERSTON, John L.
Berkeley Square A Play In Three Acts.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1929. First edition. With a presentation inscription dated ‘Nov. 11, 1929' from the author to the Welsh-born actress, ‘Miss Alice John'(1881-1956), who played opposite Leslie Howard in the 1929 Broadway production of the play of the same name. Tipped on the front pastedown the original Western Union telegram that John received from Balderston on opening night: ‘Alice John. Lyceum Theatre. Good luck you give a beautiful performance. John Balderston.' With two Christmas cards from Ruth and Leslie Howard to Alice John laid in, each with a printed message and greeting from the Howards, with one card bearing a short holograph inscription reading ‘to you & all your family', in an unknown hand. Some offsetting from the telegram on the front e/paper, some slight darkening to the spine but o/w the book is near fine. The paper of the telegram is somewhat browned and slightly brittle, the Christmas cards are near fine. A lovely association copy.
John L. Balderston (1889-1954) began his career as a journalist in 1912 while still a student at Columbia, he acted as the New York correspondent for the Philadelphia Record. From 1914 to 1918 he was the foreign correspondent for the McClure News Syndicate, and then worked for the New York World, becoming the head of its London Bureau. While still a journalist Balderston became a successful playwright, achieving success with the 1926 play, Berkeley Square, which premiered in London that same year. The author suggests that the plot of the play was ‘suggested by James posthumous fragment Sense of the Past.' The play relates the story of a young American transported back to London at the time of the American Revolution and meets his ancestors, with one contemporary critic describing it as ‘a velvety play, unfolding gently, skillfully a sympathetic tale of an American.... who fell in love with a girl of 1784 and had to leave her to come back to the age in which he belonged.'
The 1929 Broadway production, which starred Leslie Howard (who also acted as the co-producer) as ‘Peter Standish', Valerie Taylor as ‘Kate Pettigrew' and Alice John as ‘Lady Ann Pettigrew' was extremely successful, running for 229 performances at the Lyceum Theatre. Howard would later reprise his role in the 1933 American film of the same name, with the screenplay co-written by Balderston, but Alice John did not repeat her performance as Lady Pettigrew, as the part was played in the film by Irene Browne. Balderstone continued to work as a screen writer, adapting several novels for the screen, including, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) for which he won his first Academy Award The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), and Gaslight (1944).