Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Paul Osborn’s title Morning’s at Seven was taken from Robert Browning’s poem “Pippa Passes” (1841). The title functions ironically to suggest to readers and audience members alike that, unlike the last line in Pippa’s song, all is not right with this world.

First produced on Broadway in 1939, Morning’s at Seven did not achieve commercial success until its revival in 1980, when it won a Tony Award and seven Drama Desk Awards. Paul Osborn’s other well-known plays include The Vinegar Tree (pr. 1930, pb. 1931), On Borrowed Time (pr., pb. 1938), A Bell for Adano (pr. 1944, pb. 1945), and The World of Suzie Wong (pr. 1958). Osborn also enjoyed a career as a screenwriter and wrote the screenplays that included Madame Curie (1943), Cry Havoc (1943), The Yearling (1946), East of Eden (1955), Sayonara (1957), and South Pacific (1958).

When Morning’s at Seven was finally recognized by audiences as a critical success in 1980, the producers moved the time of the play from 1939 to 1922 in order to create an even greater sentimentality than the original production had when it opened in “the present” in 1939. Filled with oddball characters and representative of other nostalgic plays of the period, such as Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t Take It with You: A Play (pr. 1936, pb. 1937) and Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace (pr. 1941, pb. 1942), Osborn’s play refrained from relying too heavily on the oddity of the characters to develop the play’s effectiveness. Instead, Osborn strengthened the play by developing a warm-hearted look at family values and contrasted them with the secrets families keep and the potential those secrets have to destroy even the strongest of families.