In addition to his plays, John Patrick was the author of more than thirty screenplays, more than one thousand radio plays for the series Cecil and Sally (1929-1933), and a television play, The Small Miracle (1972), with Arthur Dales, from the novel by Paul Gallico. It is worth noting that many of Patrick’s best-known screenplays are those adapted from novels or plays. Look Out, Mr. Moto (1937) and Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938), written with others, were taken from the detective novels of John P. Marquand. The President’s Lady (1953), Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), Les Girls (1957), and Some Came Running (1958) were based on novels by Irving Stone, John H. Secondari, Han Suyin, Vera Caspary, and James Jones, respectively. The Philip Barry play The Philadelphia Story (pr. 1939) provided the basis for High Society (1956), while The World of Susie Wong (1960) and The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) were adapted from novels by, respectively, Richard Mason and Vern Sneider, and plays by, respectively, Paul Osborn and John Patrick himself. Patrick is also noted for radio dramatizations of novels, and his adaptations for that medium doubtless contributed to the sure grasp of dramatic structure that distinguished Patrick’s stage plays.
John Patrick was one of the most prolific American dramatic writers on record. While his plays range in genre, subject matter, and setting from wartime or postwar experiences in foreign lands to domestic situations and murder mysteries, the majority of them emerge as comedies and evidence both their author’s superior craftsmanship and his marked talent for the comic genre.
Patrick’s most accomplished and enduring work is The Teahouse of the August Moon. One of the greatest critical and popular successes in the history of the American theater, the play garnered in 1954 the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play of the Broadway season, the Tony Award, the Donaldson Award, and the Aegis Club Award. Less spectacular in their success yet also notable are The Hasty Heart, a serious play set in wartime and popular with audiences and critics in the 1945 Broadway and London seasons, and The Curious Savage, a comedy whose regional popularity (it has been a staple of community theater playbills over the years) has far exceeded and outlasted its restrained reception in New York in 1950. All three plays are interlaced with gentle humor and a compassionate view of the human condition, but it is for The Teahouse of the August Moon that Patrick will be remembered. A fine craftsman and a productive journeyman playwright in the best sense of the term, Patrick surpassed himself in that play, giving American theater one of its best comedies.
In addition to awards won for The Teahouse of the August Moon, Patrick won the Screenwriters Guild Award and the Foreign Correspondents Award for the 1957 musical screenplay Les Girls, with Gene Kelly and Cole Porter songs, which was presented as a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. Patrick also received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.
Atkinson, Brooks. Review of The Teahouse of the August Moon, by John Patrick. The New York Times, October 16, 1953, p. 32. Calls Patrick’s most successful play a “light and sagacious comedy” and “ingratiating.” Atkinson praises Patrick as a stylist for the “piece of erotic make-believe in a style as intimate as a fairy story.”
Atkinson, Brooks. “Theatre: Good as Gold.” Review of Good as Gold, by John Patrick. The New York Times, March 8, 1957, p. 22. Patrick’s playwriting, according to Atkinson, indicates “a refreshing lack of reverence for the people who process and implement our society,” but “he does not drive straight on through the entire evening in the key of the opening scenes.”
Borak, Jeffrey. “Compelling ‘Heart’ at BTF.” Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Mass.), August 17, 1990. A review of The Hasty Heart. Provides a strong discussion of characters, especially Lachlen and Margaret, and gives credit to director Richard Dunlap for giving “unsentimental attention to detail in both the staging and the playing of Patrick’s wartime romance.”
Watts, Richard, Jr. “A Thoroughly Delightful Comedy.” Review of The Teahouse of the August Moon, by John Patrick. Post (New York), October 16, 1953. Watts calls the play “a wise, gently satirical and beautifully understanding dramatic fantasy” about East and West. Provides a longer discussion of the play’s themes and structure than most reviews offer of this “smiling tribute to the human spirit and the capacity of mankind for mutual understanding.”