Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 257

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By his own admission, John Patrick was a commercial writer rather than a serious literary dramatist. A very prolific and relatively successful dramatist, Patrick worked as a writer for more than five decades, producing more than eleven hundred radio dramas, thirty-four plays, thirty screenplays, and one television play. His Hollywood scripts include such titles as Look Out, Mr. Moto (1937; with others), Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), Les Girls (1957), The World of Suzie Wong (1960), and Gigot (1962). The Hasty Heart was his second published play and his first commercial success, an Off-Broadway smash that was followed by several Broadway productions of his subsequent plays. The most successful of these was Patrick’s best-known work, the Broadway hit The Teahouse of the August Moon (pr. 1953; film version, 1956; pb. 1954). This comical satire shows a military bureaucracy coming into conflict with a gentle Okinawan peasant village in the years following World War II. Like The Hasty Heart, The Teahouse of the August Moon succeeds artistically because it mixes serious thematic purposes with rich humor. This play won for Patrick several major New York critics’ awards and the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1954. Following this hit were several less successful plays, including Everybody Loves Opal (pr. 1961, pb. 1962), which continues to be popular in regional and community theaters.

The praise for Patrick’s drama usually focuses on his theatrical craftsmanship. He can be depended on for effective plot structure, theatrically interesting characterization, and simple, crisp, often witty dialogue. He is generally considered a writer of gentle and compassionate comedy rather than of serious plays.