I, Don Quixote

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

I, Don Quixote is a non-musical play written for television, and broadcast on the CBS anthology series DuPont Show of the Month on the evening of November 9, 1959. Written by Dale Wasserman, the play was converted by him ca. 1964 into the libretto for the stage musical Man of La Mancha, with songs by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion. After a tryout at Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut,[1]Man of La Mancha opened in New York on November 22, 1965, at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre.[2]

The title of the 1959 teleplay was originally Man of La Mancha, but sponsor DuPont Corp. objected and producer David Susskind changed it to the more specific I, Don Quixote, fearing that the TV audience would not know who Wasserman was referring to if the original title was used.[3] When the teleplay was made into the famous stage musical, the writers decided to trust their audiences, and reverted the title back to Man of La Mancha.

I, Don Quixote has almost exactly the same plot and even much of the same dialogue as Man of La Mancha. Even the famous opening two lines of La Mancha's hit song The Impossible Dream appeared in this teleplay. According to a recently published academic book chapter by Cervantes scholar Howard Mancing, these lines and a few others were originally written as part of a preface for the now-forgotten 1908 play "Don Quixote" by Paul Kester.[citation needed]

Wasserman, however, always claimed that the lines were his own, despite the allegation that they appeared in print six years before he was born. Wasserman himself noted that he had tried to cut the impossible dream speech from the teleplay due to a need to fit the performance into the 90 minute slot, but that Lee J. Cobb, who played both Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote (despite the fact that Cobb was rather beefy and Don Quixote is supposed to be thin), had insisted it go back in.[4] The famous apocryphal 1600 portrait of Cervantes bears somewhat of a resemblance to Cobb; perhaps this is one of the reasons that he was chosen for the role.[5]

I, Don Quixote starred, in addition to Cobb, Colleen Dewhurst (in her first major role) as Aldonza/Dulcinea, Eli Wallach as Cervantes' Manservant as well as Sancho Panza, and Hurd Hatfield as Sanson Carrasco as well as a character called The Duke.

Plot summary[edit]

Miguel de Cervantes and his manservant have been thrown into a dungeon by the Spanish Inquisition for an offense against the Church. In the dungeon, a mock trial is staged, with its intention being that the prisoners rob Cervantes of all of his possessions, including a precious manuscript that he refuses to give up. It is, of course, the yet-to-be-published manuscript of Don Quixote de la Mancha, Cervantes's masterpiece. In defending himself, Cervantes begins to narrate his story of Don Quixote, with Cervantes as the Don, the role of Sancho enacted by Cervantes' own manservant, and the other characters in the story played by the other prisoners.

Differences between teleplay and musical[edit]

In the teleplay, however, there are fewer transitions from the prison to the Don Quixote scenes than there are in the musical. The teleplay also includes many adventures from the Cervantes novel which had to be left out of the musical Man of La Mancha due to time constraints, such as the attack on the flock of sheep. The encounter with the windmills, instead of taking place in the early part of the story, as in both Cervantes's novel and the musical, here takes place towards the end.[6]

The cynical prisoner known as "The Duke", who plays Dr. Sanson Carrasco in the Don Quixote scenes, is here identified as being British, not Spanish, a fact that places him in considerably more jeopardy with regard to his fate (Spain and England were mortal enemies at the time). In Man of La Mancha, he is depicted as probably being Spanish. In I, Don Quixote, he reveals his terror over his possible fate at the end, when, along with Cervantes and the manservant, he is summoned to face the Inquisition; in Man of La Mancha, only Cervantes and the manservant are summoned at the end, and "The Duke" reacts with no emotion.[6]

Additional dialogue in the film "Man of La Mancha"[edit]

There is some additional and unfamiliar dialogue heard in the 1972 film version of Man of La Mancha, starring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren. It is taken directly from the original TV play I, Don Quixote. Some of this dialogue fleshes out the personality of "The Duke", when he reveals himself as an informer who deliberately sells misleading information about countries to willing buyers. It was restored to the film version of the musical after having been cut from the stage libretto.[7]

Teleplay Reception[edit]

I, Don Quixote was highly acclaimed, but, oddly enough, did not win any Emmy nominations, although Dale Wasserman received a Writers Guild of America award for his work. After it was shown, Wasserman optioned it for Broadway, but the option was not picked up. Stage director Albert Marre finally read it and suggested that it should be turned into a musical.

I, Don Quixote has not been re-broadcast on television since 1959, and is reportedly only available on bootleg videos. Its script, however, was published in Dale Wasserman's memoir, The Impossible Musical.[8]


  1. ^ Award Winning Musical Theatre at Goodspeed Opera House and The Norma Terris Theatre in East Haddam & Chester, Conn. - Goodspeed Musicals
  2. ^ IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information
  3. ^ Wasserman, D. "The Impossible Musical," Applause Theatre and Cinema Books 2003 pages 49 and 108.
  4. ^ Wasserman 2003 page 50.
  5. ^ Miguel de Cervantes
  6. ^ a b http://www.h-net.org/~cervantes/csa/articf01/diary.pdf
  7. ^ Wasserman 2003.
  8. ^ Wasserman 2003 pages 195-318.