Dearest Enemy

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Dearest Enemy
Sheet music cover (cropped)
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Lorenz Hart
Book Herbert Fields
Basis A true American Revolutionary War incident
Productions 1925 Broadway

Dearest Enemy is a musical with a book by Herbert Fields, lyrics by Lorenz Hart, and music by Richard Rodgers. This was the first of eight book musicals written by the songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart and writer Herbert Fields. [1] The musical takes place in 1776, during the American Revolutionary War.

Production and background[edit]

Herbert Fields, Rodgers and Hart first took their musical to Herbert's father, Lew Fields, to produce, but he declined, thinking the Revolutionary War story would not be commercial. Ultimately George Ford, husband of Helen Ford, the star of the show, agreed to produce it. The musical had been variously described as an operetta and a genuine comic opera in the press.[2]

The Broadway production opened on September 18, 1925 at the Knickerbocker Theatre, and closed on May 22, 1926, after 286 performances. Directed by John Murray Anderson, the cast included Flavia Arcaro as Mary, Helen Spring as Jane, John Seymour as Harry, Helen Ford as Betsy, Charles Purcell as Sir John, and H. E. Eldridge as Washington.

A television musical special featuring Cyril Ritchard, Anne Jeffreys, Robert Sterling, and Cornelia Otis Skinner as Mrs. Murray was broadcast on November 26, 1955.[3]A cast recording of that broadcast was released on compact disc in 1997.


Based on a true American Revolutionary War incident, its heroine is Mary Lindley Murray who, under orders from General Washington, detained British troops by serving them cake and wine in her Kips Bay, Manhattan home long enough for some 4,000 American soldiers to reassemble in Washington Heights in September 1776. Reality gives way to fanciful fictionalization with the addition of a pair of love stories, one involving Mary's daughter Jane and British General Tyron's son Harry, the other focusing on the on-again, off-again relationship between Mary's Irish niece Betsy Burke and British Capt. Sir John Copeland. Also playing a role in the plot is a houseful of beautiful young ladies eager to engage the enemy in more than just conversation, and a group of handsome young men happy to forget their patriotic duty for refreshments, music, and flirtations at the Murray mansion.


Critical response[edit]

There was a "well-sustained attempt" to match the music to the plot and period. The ballads were "dainty, charming pieces."[2]

The Telegram reviewer wrote that "We have a glimmering notion that someday they will form the American counterpart of the once great triumvirate of Bolton, Wodehouse, and Kern."[2]


  1. ^ Green, Kay. Broadway musicals, show by show (1996, Edition:5), Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 0-7935-7750-0, p. 48
  2. ^ a b c Green, Stanley. The world of musical comedy (1984), Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-80207-4, pp 116-117
  3. ^ Listing, accessed April 8, 2009

External links[edit]