Maude Adams: An Intimate Portrait

By Phyllis Robbins | Go to book overview
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Chapter Three

WHEN THE opportunity was given Miss Adams to leave Mr. Drew's company and become a star, her decision to do so was mixed with regret. She writes of her feelings at that time: "If only J. M. Barrie had never made a play of The Little Minister, there would have been no temptation to drift away." In this halfhearted way she first mentions the author with whom her great successes are linked.

Mr. Barrie very nearly did not write it. Charles Frohman had been prodding him to dramatize his novel, but with no one in mind for Babbie, Mr. Barrie had seemed unable. At that time, 1896, the playwright who was to possess a magic touch had but two plays to his credit: one a farce called Walker. London, which most people have never heard of; the other his well-known The Professor's Love Story. It happened, however, on one of his rare trips to America, that in New York he saw Maude Adams playing in Rosemary and instantly sought out Frohman to announce his now famous prophecy: "Behold, my Babbie."

So the novel became a play -- the plot much altered in the process -- and Richard Harding Davis, who happened to be in London during the summer of 1897, wrote back to his mother, giving the first account, the strangest one imaginable, of the play that was to endear Miss Adams to so many thousands of people. He describes a preliminary performance which in those days it was still necessary to give in order to protect the acting rights. Obviously, from his account, the details of the performance could be left to the whims of the artists.

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