Saturday, January 29, 2011

Collaboration Begins

 On May 28, 1969, two days after John wrote Charles Whitman of Brigham Young University, Bud Noble an independent producer wrote to Mr. Whitman.  In his letter he wrote, "My adaptation for the musical version ends with the wedding of Mama and Papa."

Bud Noble called his play Pursuit of Happiness.  Two weeks later on June 8th the cast of the play performed a community run through for feed back. From Mr. Noble's point of view the play was a success.  He did however share some thoughts.

"There is a great deal of work that needs to be done by someone such as yourself (Charles Whitman) in collaboration with Mr. Fitzgerald regarding the expansion of the Bishop's role and coloring the characters to truly exemplify their indentity as Fitzgerald meant them to be."
In addition to developing the Bishop's role, the feedback included suggestions to give "Tena more obstacles for her to surmount before she realizes her true happiness".  (The true happiness is marrying Papa).

By the end of June all three men had begun working on fleshing out the small play Bud had created.  During the same time each one of them had challenges.  John's house in Denver flooded and unfortunately he had been in New York working on The Great Brain, so the damage was extensive.  Charles Whitman's  "briefcase with notes, scripts, etc. for the show was lost, stolen or something."  While Bud received an offer to perform the full musical in early September, making the time crunch tight for finishing the production.  Last of all John sent a copy of the play to his agent, Ann Elmo, in New York.  Ann's feed back only added more work,
"Your conflict is strong here but it's also feebly developed.  We need a more solidly built love story and just as solidly built opposition to the union.  The seems like a lot of work, but I know you can do it.  Incidently, must the term "gentile" be used?  You know it has a different meaning nowadays."

Clearly writing a play from a book was not going to be such an easy task.  Each of them though was willing to try.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We Take Time for a Break

I know we are mid way through the history of the plays, but my husband had surgery so we put things on hold.  He's back to action so I will re join the blog world soon.

On a side note - I recommend you buying or getting a copy of Mama's Bank Account.  Easy read, sweet story, and very similar to John's style of books.  Grab a copy while the world is still grey, cold and quiet.  I read it this past week and loved it.

Thanks for always checking in.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Fork In The River

On May 26, 1969 - John wrote to Charles Whitman to explain a small development that had occurred.  Like digging a small hole in  a stream path, this development moved the play down an unexpected path.

Dear Charles; 
I am sorry to inform you that Prentice Hall who own the copyright to Papa Married A Mormon decided to accept a cash offer for a one year option on the live dramatic rights to the book.  And due to the cash involved I must admit that I went along with the idea.    
 Bud Noble and Associates are going to make a musical comedy out of the book.  The music and lyrics have been written and will be presented at the Fresno Playhouse on June 9th. I have written Mr. Noble and suggested he give you a crack at writing the book for the musical (libretto).  The Fresno production is just to try out the music with Guy Stockwell reading the narrative to the audience.  Bud wanted me to take a shot at writing the libretto but I haven't any playwriting experience at all, except for working on the motion picture script with Warren Duff.
You may hear from Bud Noble.
This still leave's Mamma's Boarding House open for option if you want it.  I recall the book, play and later motion picture of .Mamma's Bank Account was a big hit.
With every good wish,                                        

Shortly thereafter, Bud Noble wrote Charles Whitman.  From that day on the process took some remarkable turns.   I'll fill you in a few days.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nurturing a Dream

Every published writer wants their books to succeed.  Depending on the era they publish in, a published author can hope for anything from a barely known book that at least bears your name, to the present mother lode of having the story made into a movie.

In 1955 John Fitzgerald's Papa Married a Mormon had been promised the world. Radio, T.V., movie.  These were heady ideals for his family memoir.  Unfortunately a decade later John's hopes were fleeting.  In a letter to Mr. Charles Whitman, drama director at Brigham Young University, John wrote, "The motion picture rights to Papa Married a Mormon were sold in 1955 although the movie has never been made....I have no way of knowing when or if the movie will ever be made."

Mr. Whitman had written John in February of 1969. He was hoping to create a play based on the three adult books.  The idea appealed to John but there were legal loopholes and contracts that must be maintained.  All of these John outlined in his two page response to Whitman.  However, more important than any of these was the purpose of the story.  John's closing paragraph outlined his dream, "It is a shame that motion picture of Papa Married a Mormon was never made because it would have done more to build up good will toward the Mormons in this country than anything else.  Maybe your play could do the same thing if you adhere to the story line and don't let any propoganda (sic) work its way into it."  John closed "with every good wish".

By March the authorization to adapt had been given.  There was only one caveat and John didn't think it would be a problem.  Mr. Whitman had his dream.  John did, too.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Let's Start At The Very Beginning...

In 1955 when Papa Married a Mormon was released, it became a publishing house bestseller.  With that success came a string of opportunities. Book of the month clubs, magazine serial rights, radio shows, television shows, and movie rights were all banking on their take off of the book.

Republic Pictures acquired the movie rights.  Republic Pictures specialized in b-movies, westerns, etc.  However they did produce such classics as The Quiet Man with John Wayne and The Sands of Iwo Jima.  By 1969 no movie had been made.  In early 1969 Charles W. Whitman, drama professor at Brigham Young University, wrote John Fitzgerald regarding the option to produce a single play based on the three adult novels. This is where our story begins.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Coming Soon- A Tale of Two Plays


"They were the worst of plays; they were the best of plays"

I am working on writing the history of the two musical versions of Papa Married a Mormon.  I am so grateful to Michelle Horner who collected and shared the original plays history to me.  

It's going to take a few more days, but keep checking back I think it's an interesting chapter in John's success.