The Corn Is Green
The Corn Is Green is a 1940 semi-autobiographical play by Emlyn Williams. The original broadcast starred Ethel Barrymore and premiered at the National Theatre on November 26th, running for 477 performances. It was noted for being a magnificent comeback by Barrymore, who hadn't had a success of that magnitude since The Constant Wife (1926) and Declassee (1919).
At its core is L. C. Moffat, a strong-willed English school teacher working in a poverty-stricken coal mining village in late 19th century Wales. Moffat struggles to win the local Welsh miners over to her English ways, and an illiterate teenager by the name of Morgan Evans eventually graduates with honors.
The play premiered in London at the Duchess Theatre in 1938 with Williams portraying Morgan Evans.
The first Broadway production, directed by Herman Shumlin, opened on November 26, 1940 at the National Theatre and later transferred to the Royale Theatre, running a total of 477 performances. The cast included Ethel Barrymore, Rhys Williams, Mildred Dunnock, and Richard Waring. On May 3, 1943, a revival with Barrymore again in the lead opened at the Martin Beck Theatre, where it ran for 56 performances.
- Ethel Barrymore as Miss Moffat
- Sayre Crawley as Old Tom
- George Bleasdale as A Groom
- Edmond Breon as The Squire
- Rosalind Carter Ensemble
- Kenneth Clarke as Glyn Thomas
- Betty Conibear Ensemble
- Marcel Dill Ensemble
- Tommy Dix Ensemble
- Mildred Dunnock Miss Ronberry
- Gwyneth Hughes as Sarah Pugh
- Rosalind Ivan as Mrs. Watty
- Julia Knox Ensemble
- Thomas Lyons as Robbart Robbatch
- Joseph McInerney Ensemble
- Terence Morgan as Will Hughes
- Harda Norman Ensemble
- Merritt O'Duel as John Owen
- Charles Pursell as Idwal Morris
- Amelia Romano Ensemble
- Thelma Schnee as Bessie Watty
- Richard Waring as Morgan Evans
- Gwilym Williams Ensemble
- Rhys Williams as John Goronwy Jones
The Corn is Green was highly successful, running for 477 performances.
In 1945, a film adaptation was made, with Bette Davis (herself of Welsh descent) as Moffat. In the late 1970s, Davis returned to the role in a musical stage adaptation that proved to be a disaster. The setting was changed to the American South, with the young man transformed into an African-American college student (portrayed by Dorian Harewood) ignoring his studies in favor of football. It was Miss Moffat's responsibility to help him raise his grades so he can remain on the team. At this point in her life, Davis was far too old for the role and was unable to carry a tune. When the pre-Broadway run opened in Boston, the show was derided by the critics, and it underwent major changes before moving to Philadelphia. There audiences greeted it with catcalls, and it closed before its opening night, never making it to Broadway.
After 21 previews, another Broadway revival, directed by Vivian Matalon and produced by Elizabeth Taylor and Zev Bufman, opened on August 22, 1983, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. In a case of color-blind casting, Cicely Tyson portrayed Miss Moffat, with Peter Gallagher, Marge Redmond, and Mia Dillon in supporting roles. Critics found the play hopelessly dated, and it ran for only 32 performances.
The play is slightly vague about when it is set. The script describes it as the latter part of the 19th century, but it appears to be before serious moves towards universal education in England and Wales with the Elementary Education Act 1870.