Mary Coyle Chase

by Mary Chase

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 50

Though best known for her stage comedies, Mary Chase also wrote two children’s novels, Loretta Mason Potts (1958), of which her 1969 play Mickey is a dramatization, and The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden (1968). In addition, she wrote film adaptations of three of her plays, Sorority House (1939), Harvey (1950), and Bernardine (1957).


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Mary Chase’s most significant achievement on stage was Harvey, which also garnered her most significant award, the Pulitzer Prize in drama, 1945. Harvey played for more than four years in its first run on Broadway (1945-1949), and for seventy-nine performances in a 1970 revival. For four months during the 1952-1953 season, Chase had two plays running concurrently on Broadway, Mrs. McThing and Bernardine. She received the William MacLeod Raine award from the Colorado Authors League in 1944 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Denver in 1947.


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Bordman, Gerald. American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1930-1969. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. A survey that puts Chase’s achievements into perspective.

Chapman, John, ed. The Best Plays of 1951-52. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1952. This account explains how Mrs. McThing came to be written and produced.

Kerr, Walter. “Remembrances of Things Past.” In the God on the Gymnasium Floor, edited by Walter Kerr. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971. In light of James Stewart’s 1970 Broadway revival of Harvey, Kerr observes how the play has held up over a quarter century and that its immense popularity threatens to obscure its technical brilliance. The greatest contributor to its success, however, is its simplicity.

Laufe, Abe. Anatomy of a Hit. New York: Hawthorne Books, 1966. This analysis explains Harvey’s Pulitzer win.

Mantle, Burns, ed. The Best Plays of 1944-45. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1945. Recounts the controversy over the Pulitzer Prize that year.

Miller, Jordan Y. “Harvey.” In American Dramatic Literature: Ten Modern Plays in Historical Perspective, edited by Jordan Y. Miller. New York: McGraw Hill, 1961. Faults apparent structural weaknesses in Harvey—a lopsided first act, too slow a pace, a love affair that goes nowhere—then admires the play for succeeding despite these difficulties because of its triumphant characterization of the protagonist, Elwood P. Dowd.

Nathan, George Jean. “American Playwrights Old and New.” In Theatre in the Fifties, edited by George Jean Nathan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953. Admires Chase’s craft but denies the consensus of the critics that Bernardine and Mrs. McThing are successful in treating fantasy on stage.

Sievers, W. David. “New Freudian Blood.” In Freud on Broadway: A History of Psychoanalysis and the American Drama, edited by W. David Sievers. New York: Hermitage House, 1955. Considers Chase’s flop The Next Half Hour a botched attempt at realism but values both Mrs. McThing and Bernardine as contributions to the psychology of fantasy on stage.

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