Poster for 1945 theatre production of ‘Emma’

Object name: St. James’ Theatre poster for the 1945 theatrical production of Emma

Object number: CHWJA:JAH421.4

Category: Objects

Description: St. James’ Theatre poster featuring the 1945 theatrical production of Emma, presented by Robert Donat, dramatised by Gordon Glennon and starring Anna Neagle.

Made: 1945

Context: This production was not the first dramatisation of Emma but it is believed to be the first to appear on a London stage. Written by Gordon Glennon and presented by film star turned theatrical promoter Robert Donat, the play had a successful tour of several regional theatres before opening at the now demolished  St James’ Theatre on King Street, London  on 7 February 1945.

The play ran in London for over sixty performances between February and April 1945, although at times interrupted by air raids.

The popular English stage and screen actress Anna Neagle took the titular role despite, at 40 years old, being almost twice Emma’s age; Australian actor Frank Allenby played the part of Mr Knightley. The much admired costumes were by the renowned costume designer Gladys Calthrop.

The London run received mixed reviews, the main criticism being that too much of Jane Austen’s original witty dialogue had been lost. A review in The Times Literary Supplement read :  ‘Who, if the novel were available, would prefer the play?’

Anna Neagle was a great Jane Austen fan and joined the Jane Austen Society in 1948.

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