Saturday, January 22, 2011

Zeitgeist watch: The casting call for "Ed Devery"

An old Broadway play opening in April is now, according to casting for a lead character who once worked for a Supreme Court justice and was "destined for greatness" but now "they speak of his past brilliance."

This sorry old fella who's been battered around by fate is named Ed Devery.

It'd be easy to read too much into this. (The play, Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin, was written in 1946 -- six years after researcher Charles Wisner Barrell created a stir in the pages of Scientific American identifying the sitter of the "Ashbourne Portrait of Shakespeare" as Edward de Vere.)

Still, in a year that will see the first Edward de Vere biopic, this revival reminds how we may be seeing more names or characters or situations from de Vere's life story emerging in sometimes unexpected places.

After the jump, the relevant excerpts from the casting call listing.


Philip Morgaman, Frankie J. Grande, Anne & Vincent Caruso & James P. MacGilvray (prods.) are casting the Broadway production of Born Yesterday. Garson Kanin, writer; Doug Hughes, dir.; Binder Casting, casting dir. Rehearsals begin approx. March 1; opens in mid-April in NYC.

Seeking — Ed Devery: early 50s, thirty years ago, when he was secretary to a great Supreme Court Justice, he was known as a young man destined for greatness, fifteen years later, they speak of his past brilliance in law, and charitably forget that he now has but one client, Harry Brock, who might have difficulty in finding a reputable lawyer to serve him, but Ed is past caring, Brock represents over $100,000 a year, which buys plenty of the best available scotch, attractive, but the years and the booze have taken their toll, but he still retains a glimmer of his earlier appealing looks, protects himself with an ironic, jaundiced sense of humor; Eddie Brock: late 40s-early 50s, Harry's cousin and servant, wiry little streetwise mug, knows he is dependent on Harry, and genuinely fears him, as he has seen him at his most dangerous and violent, smart enough to know how to stay in Harry's good graces, while at the same time having a dry sense of irony and humor about the position he is in...

Probably better just to end this post before venturing too much into the storyline here. Interesting, though, about Devery's "wiry little streetwise" colleague Eddie Brock. Will Shakspere redux?

EDITED to add links and references to the original version of Born Yesterday. The first draft of this post suggested the play was new. It ain't.

(Hat tip to G.Q.; creative commons photo by matt.h.wade)


Anka said...

Information on the two movies based on the play:

The role of "Jim Devery" in the 1950s version could be a typo.

Looking in the Distance said...

I have read that De Vere may possibly have been the bastard son of Queen Elizabeth. Would this not be a plausible explanation of Shakespeare's concern over the loss of his name, his defense of bastards, his grant of money by Queen Elizabeth, and his protection from retribution by those in power whom he ridiculed?

Michael Prescott said...

I just watched the 1950 film version of Born Yesterday, starring Judy Holliday and William Holden. It's a terrific film, and Holliday's Oscar-winning performance still shines. But the Ed Devery character has only a minor presence, and I didn't see any connection with "our" Edward. Just a coincidence, I think.

CGE said...

I played the role of Ed Devery in a good production of Born Yesterday in Boston in the early 1980s. The play, written at the end of WWII, is unusually intelligent - and political. By the time the movie was made, McCarthyism had supervened and the open political satire had disappeared. That Kanin had De Vere in mind is suggested by the curious fact that there are two characters in the play with the name 'Ed' - not something a playwright would usually do. (It bothered the moviemakers enough that they changed the character's name to 'JIM Devery.')

Mark said...

Michael and CGE -- thank you both for your take on this. I greatly appreciate feedback that keeps me questioning my own suppositions and theories.

And on that note, yes, Looking in the Distance, illegitimate son-of-Queen Elizabeth theories have been circulating about Edward de Vere, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Essex and even (if you look back into anti-Stratfordian history) Francis Bacon. There are more such suppositions where the above came from too.

I readily admit there would almost need to be some big and burning political issues behind any authorial concealment like the kind Oxfordians suggest happened with Edward de Vere. I name a few in SBAN -- e.g. de Vere portraying the most powerful people in England in very unflattering terms in the plays.

But whereas the circumstantial evidence is, I think, very strong in favor of Edward de Vere as "Shakespeare," I find it not so overwhelming (to put it mildly) for the "Prince Tudor" theories.

I don't want to say I'm opposed to these ideas. The Elizabethan and Jacobean periods saw some strange things going on in the halls of power. I just haven't seen enough convincing evidence to make me think *this particular* breed of strange thing was lurking in the shadows.

I'm all for researching the leads that Oxfordians find most fruitful. But for me, for now, the Tudor heir story is either a) something for its partisans to gather more evidence for or b) something that's about to be the subject of a MAJOR Hollywood movie at the end of September.

And b), of course, is another story altogether. One this blog will be continuing to chronicle in the coming months.

Mark said...

A postscript to add how, shall we say, curious it is that "Tudor heir" theories always seem to circle around Liz Tudor's secret baby boys. Seems oddly ironic, too, given Elizabeth's father's little problem along similar lines.