Lightnin' (play)

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Frank Bacon02.JPG
Frank Bacon as Lightnin' Bill Jones
Written by Winchell Smith and Frank Bacon
Characters Lightnin' Bill Jones
Original language English

Lightnin' is a comedy play in three acts by Winchell Smith and Frank Bacon. The play was produced by John Golden and directed by P. E. McCoy. With Frank Bacon in the lead role and billed as “A Live Wire American Comedy”, Lightnin' made its Broadway debut on August 26, 1918, at the Gaiety Theatre and played continuously over three seasons with a record breaking run of 1,291 performances. The show began its long national tour at the end of August 1921 and continued on for some time after Bacon’s death in November 1922. Lightnin' was revived in 1938 for a two-month run at the John Golden Theatre with Fred Stone playing Lightnin’ Bill Jones and was adapted for cinema twice in films starring Jay Hunt (1925) and Will Rogers (1930).[1]

Original Broadway cast[edit]

Actor Role
Frank Bacon Lightnin' Bill Jones
Bessie Bacon Mrs. Harper
E. J. Blunkall Everett Hammond
Sidney Coburn Teddy Peters
Sam Coit Nevin Blodgett
Fred Conklin Liveryman
Harry Davenport Rodney Harper
Mary Duryea Mrs. Brainerd
William F. Granger Walter Lennon
Frances Kennan Mrs. Starr
James C. Lane Hotel Clerk
Thomas MacLarnie Lemuel Townsend
Beth Martin Freda
Ralph Morgan John Marvin
Beatrice Nichols Mildred Buckley
Jane Oaker Margaret Davis
Minnie Palmer Mrs. Jordan
Jessie E. Pringle Mrs. Jones
Phyllis Rankin Mrs. Moore
George Spelvin Zeb Crothers
Paul Stanton Raymond Thomas
Helen Story Mrs. Brewer
George Thompson Oscar Nelson
Ruth Towle Mrs. Corshall
Sue Wilson Emily Jarvis


The story takes place in the mythical town of Calivada where Lightnin' Bill Jones, or more correctly his wife, operates a rather seedy hotel that straddles the California-Nevada state line convenient for those looking for a quick Nevada divorce. He is nicknamed Lightnin’ because, as the local postmaster put it, “We call him Lightnin’ because he ain’t.”[2]

Lightnin’ Bill, a Civil War veteran known to brag that he advised General Ulysses S. Grant, also claims to be a jack of all trades, having been at one time or another, a judge, inventor, detective and bee keeper. Of the latter profession he spins the tale that he once drove a swarm across the prairie in the midst of winter without the loss of a single bee. When pressed Lightnin’ Bill concedes that during the drive he may have been stung once or twice.[3]

Lightnin’ Bill likes to spend his days and nights carousing with cronies rather than being at home with his wife and adopted daughter. When he refuses to go along with the sale of the hotel to group of out-of-town businessmen, his wife becomes furious and files for divorce. In court Lightnin’ Bill, with the help of young John Marvin, is able to prove that the buyers are unscrupulous scoundrels and wins back the love of his wife.[1][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lightnin' Flashes A Hit At The Gaiety. New York Times, August 27, 1918 p. 7
  2. ^ Bacon, Frank - Lightnin, 1920, p. 1 Retrieved September 12, 2013
  3. ^ a b Everybody's Magazine, vol. 40, January 1919, p.43 Retrieved September 12, 2013

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Longest-running Broadway show
1920 – 1925
Succeeded by
Abie's Irish Rose