Emlyn Williams Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In addition to his stage and radio plays, Emlyn Williams wrote plays for television: in 1968, A Blue Movie of My Own True Love, about a love affair that results in murder; and in 1976, The Power of Dawn, about the final moments in the life of Leo Tolstoy.

Williams wrote the screenplays or provided dialogue for several motion pictures, including his Friday the Thirteenth (1933; with G. H. Moresby-White and Sidney Gilliat), Evergreen (1934; with Marjorie Gaffney), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934; with A. R. Rawlinson and Edwin Greenwood), and The Last Days of Dolwyn (1949). His script for The Citadel (1938; with Frank Wead, Ian Dalrymple, Elizabeth Hill, and John Van Druten ), based on the 1937 A. J. Cronin novel, was published in Foremost Films of 1938.

Williams also wrote two volumes of memoirs: George: An Early Autobiography (1961) and Emlyn: An Early Autobiography, 1927-1935 (1973). The first tells the story of his childhood and youth in rural and urban Wales; the second chronicles his attempts to make a name for himself on the London stage as actor and playwright. Williams’s interest in the psychology of killers, a concern of several of his plays, led to his account of the 1963-1964 Moors murders in England, Beyond Belief: A Chronicle of Murder and Its Detection (1967).

In his youth, Williams wrote several novels, but it was not until he was seventy-five that he actually published a novel, Headlong (1980), a variation of the “if I were king” theme. Its hero, Jack Green, who is an actor struggling to achieve success on the London stage, turns out to be the only living heir to the English throne when the entire royal family is wiped out in a catastrophe.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

When one thinks of Wales in terms of theater, one thinks of Emlyn Williams, not only because he came from Wales but also because so many of his plays are filled with Welsh scenes and people. The Corn Is Green, his most popular play, is a hymn to the glory of life and to the distinctive virtues of the Welsh people. The play also won critical acclaim, receiving the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play of 1941.

Williams’s studies of psychopathology are notable: His particularly chilling portrait of Dan in Night Must Fall was one of the first, and remains one of the most frightening, portraits of psychopathic killers who stalk their victims across countless reels and pages of twentieth century movies and books.

Williams has also been acclaimed for his acting ability, enjoying particular success for his impersonation of Charles Dickens reading his works and for his one-man show based on the works of Dylan Thomas. For his distinguished career in the theater, Williams was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1962.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brantley, Ben. “A Killer Just Loaded with Charm.” Review of Night Must Fall, by Emlyn Williams. The New York Times, March 9, 1999, p. 1. This favorable review of a 1999 staging of Night Must Fall by the Tony Randall’s National Actors Theater remarks on how well the play works more than sixty years after its premiere. The discussion of the production and the plot sheds light on Williams’s well-known work.

Dale-Jones, Don. Emlyn Williams. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1979. This monograph focuses on how Williams’s Welsh background, including his studies in psychology and foreign literatures, determined his interest in the theater and influenced his plays. A thorough study of Williams. Bibliography.

Findlater, Richard. Emlyn Williams. New York: Macmillan, 1956. A copiously illustrated biography that covers every facet of Williams’s life and career.

Harding, James. Emlyn Williams: A Life. 1993. Reprint. Cardiff: Welsh Academic Press, 2002. This biography of Williams looks at his life and works. Provides a listing of his works, bibliography, and index.

Stephens, John Russell. Emlyn Williams: The Making of a Dramatist. Chester Springs, Pa.: DuFour Editions, 2000. Stephens’s biography traces the development of Williams as a dramatist and examines his works. Bibliography and index.

Whitford-Roberts, Edward. The Emlyn Williams Country. Foreword by Emlyn Williams. Penarth, Wales: Penarth Times, 1963. This study attempts a further understanding of the Welsh content—characters, settings, atmosphere, and ethical principles—of Williams’s plays. It includes a map of Flintshire and photographs of places that might have fueled the playwright’s imagination and people who might have encouraged his career.