Peter Pan is arguably not a pantomime. It has been performed in play and musical form almost continually over the past hundred years, but in recent years it’s strength as a pantomime subject cannot be ignored. It is now one of the top selling subjects for panto in the country.
Up until recent times the copyright only allowed the J.M. Barrie version to be performed, with the exception of the Disney cartoon in 1953. Changes in the copyright allowed adaptations of the Barrie story to take place, and the first Peter Pan-tomimes began to appear. Now a second novel has been created.
October 2006 is a very good time to look at the influence of J.M. Barrie’s book and play, as it is this month that the official “sequel” “PETER PAN IN SCARLET” has been published.
“Peter Pan In Scarlet”, written by British author Geraldine McCaughrean was published in 30 countries this month, (in 31 languages worldwide) and, as the choice of the Great Ormond Street Hospital, who own the copyright, it will continue to earn money for this most famous of children’s hospitals. The royalties from this new novel will be split between the author and Great Ormond Street. It is published by Oxford University Press in the UK.
The current copyright for Barrie’s work runs out in the UK in 2007, and in the USA in 2023.
It was the hospital that held a competition to choose the approved version and author for this purpose, when, in it’s early stages the novel had a working title of “Captain Pan”. One of the judges was J.M. Barrie’s great-great nephew, David Barrie. He recently said Barrie would been delighted to know that
“The boy who wouldn’t grow up will go on helping children back to health for many years to come”
J.M. Barrie bequeathed the copyright of “Peter Pan” to the hospital in 1929, and it runs out next year. There was a brief time in recent years when the copyright expired, and it looked as if Barrie’s bequest would no longer be honoured. Questions were raised in parliament, and an agreement was made ensuring royalty payments would continue to be paid.
The “New” Novel:
For those who don’t wish to know the plot- please look away now!
The new “Peter Pan” novel is set in the late 1929 and begins when the Darling children have all grown up. Wendy is a Mother now, and she and the Lost Boys decide to make one last trip to Neverland in the company of Fireflyer, a fairy. Tinkerbell is still very much alive in Neverland (thanks to those children who applauded her at every performance) and Peter has begun to take on some of the characteristics of his nemesis, Captain Hook.
The title refers to the red coat adopted by Peter, who although emulating the ruthless Hook, discovers the re-incarnation of his old enemy in Neverland. There are adventures, journeys on “The Jolly Peter”, witches and dragons and the realisation by Wendy that it is time to return home- Peter is left behind in Neverland still refusing to ever grow up.
The Origins of Peter Pan
The Play opened at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London on December 27th 1904.
A copy of the first programme - 1904
An immediate success, the play continued to be performed almost every year in London, and on tour. As a play and a musical it reached out to Broadway, and from then on it has encompassed cinema, television and theatre, and now can be seen in it’s pantomime form in theatres across the UK.
The first person to create the part of Peter Pan was the actress Nina Boucicault, sister of Dion Boucicault the director of the play, with the actor Gerald Du Maurier as Captain Hook. Du Maurier was in fact the Uncle of the Llewellyn- Davies children- the inspiration for Peter Pan and the Darling children.
Zena Dare as Peter Pan (1905) - The Nursery Scene - Pauline Chase as Peter Pan (1907)
The Five Boys
J.M. Barrie (1860-1937) befriended the Llewellyn-Davies family and their children, and as his neighbours in Kensington he became a family friend and adopted “uncle” to the five boys.
He first encounter the three children with their nanny whilst walking his dog, Porthos. Barrie and his actress wife Mary Ansell owned both Porthos, a St.Bernard and Luath, a Newfoundland. Obviously the creation of Nana the dog as nursemaid sprang from his own home.
The three boys he encountered were George Llewellyn Davies, aged five, his younger brother Jack, aged three, and the baby Peter. Barrie and his wife Mary had no children, and in his meetings with the boys Barrie revelled in entertaining them.
Michael Llewelyn Davies dressed as Peter Pan
A while later he recalled being at a dinner party, sitting next to “the most beautiful creature I had ever seen”, Sylvia Llewellyn Davies, the daughter of the actor Gerald Du Maurier- the original Captain Hook in later years. Sylvia was married to a barrister, Arthur. It was during dinner party conversation that Barrie realised they were the parents of the three boys, later the five boys.
The Stories woven around the boys
The Three Llewellyn Davies Boys
Within a short time Barrie was a regular visitor to the Llewellyn Davies household. When he spent time with the children he experienced “the finest dream in the world. That I am a boy again…” He began to tell the boys stories featuring them in adventures, many taking place in Kensington Gardens nearby. Peter, the youngest became the focus of some stories, although to say he was “Peter Pan” would be unfair. There were elements of George in the character as well. It was George who once said “To die must be an awfully big adventure..”, words that Barrie carefully noted in his pocket book. Barrie claimed all five boys were his inspiration.
'I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. Peter Pan is the spark I got from you'
In creating Peter, he also created Wendy. He invented the Christian name. It had not existed before. He also created the “Wendy House”, a word that we use today to refer to a child’s play house, and possibly wonder where the name came from. Wendy got her name from the daughter of his friend, W.E. Henley the poet.-his four year old daughter Margaret had trouble pronouncing her “r’s”, and referred to Barrie as her “Fwendy”- he noted this down, and created his heroine’s new name.
The stories take shape
An established and popular playwright, Barrie wrote his first play in 1877. The Play that he will always be remembered for “Peter Pan or the boy who would not grow up” was presented to the public in 1904 and published as the play in book form in 1911.
However, the idea of Peter Pan and Wendy began earlier. In 1902 He published an adult novel “The Little White Bird”. It was the tale of a lonely bachelor who meets a boy in Kensington Gardens. Together they invent the story of Peter Pan, a baby who lives on the Island in the Serpentine (the lake in the park).
This was later adapted and republished in 1906 as “Peter Pan In Kensington Gardens” and the book was dedicated” to Sylvia and Arthur Llewellyn Davies and their boys. My boys”
The family often spent long summers at Barrie’s country house, “Black Lake Cottage” in Farnham. Here more “piratical” adventures were played out on the shores of the Black Lake. The first draft of the play began between 1903 and early 1904. This version had no pirates and no Captain Hook. The Adventures with Hook began to be written in when Barrie discovered he needed a “filler”- a front cloth scene while scenery was being changed. In his Scottish homeland, as a boy the local postman was nick-named “Hookie”- he had a hook in place of his right hand. The story was developed by spring of 1904.
The American producer Charles Frohman was instrumental in helping Barrie craft his play, getting it ready for performance. Frohman was in awe of the play, but not of the title- “Peter Pan, or the boy who hated Mothers”. When Barrie suggested “The boy who could not grow up”, Frohman suggested “The boy who WOULD not grow up”. The legend was born at the Duke of York’s Theatre that Christmas.
Peter Pan premiered in America at the Empire Theatre, New York on 6th November 1905
Maude Adams - First American Peter - 1905
Barrie himself toyed with a sequel. A short lived play “When Wendy Grew Up” was performed in 1908, and since that time the concept of Peter Pan has been turned into the successful Disney Cartoon (and later a Disney “sequel” cartoon), and various films have taken the story and extended it- “Hook”(1991) starring Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams saw the grown up Peter returning to Neverland,
“Peter Pan” (2002) was the first live action version of the story to be filmed ,since Paramount Pictures silent film “Peter Pan” in 1924. The 2002 version had Jeremy Sumpter and Jason Issacs in the leading roles, while “Finding Neverland”(2004), with Johhny Depp and Kate Winslet explored the friendship between the Author and the Llewellyn-Davies family. There was also the Stephen Spielberg adaptation which focused on Peter when he had grown up Hook.
The Annual Play:
For many years the Daniel Mayer company presented “Peter Pan, or the boy who wouldn’t grow up” by J.M.Barrie. Music was composed by John Crook.
The role of Peter attracted leading actresses of the day, and the part of Captain Hook was always an attractive Christmas role for leading actors. The play was to be found in London virtually every year, and later could be found touring the provinces. When in London the Aida Foster Theatre school and Italia Conti school frequently provided the “Lost Boys”, along with Michael, John and Wendy.
The West End productions of “Peter Pan” attracted the major figures from the worlds of Musical Comedy, Theatrical Knights of the Realm and Major Movie Stars to play the parts of Peter and Hook.
Below is a list of the “Peter’s” and “Hook’s” from 1904 to 1950 and 1950 to the 1970’s
It reads like the “Who’s Who” of Theatreland.
DATE / PETER PAN / THEATRE / CAPTAIN HOOK
Nina Boucicault - the first Peter 1904 / Hilda Trevelyan - the first Wendy 1904
1904 - Nina Boucicault - Duke of Yorks - Sir Gerald Du Maurier
1905 - Cissie Loftus - Duke of Yorks - Sir Gerald Du Maurier
1906 - Pauline Chase - Duke of Yorks - Sir Gerald Du Maurier
1907 - Pauline Chase - Duke of Yorks - Rob Harwood
1908 - Pauline Chase - Duke of Yorks - Rob Harwood
1909 - Pauline Chase - Duke of Yorks - Rob Harewood
1910 - Pauline Chase - Duke of Yorks - E. Holman Clark
1911 - Pauline Chase - Duke of Yorks - E. Holman Clark
1912 - Pauline Chase - Duke of Yorks - E. Holman Clark
1913 - Pauline Chase - Duke of Yorks - Sir Godfrey Tearl
Noel Coward as Slightly - 1913
1914 - Madge Titheradge - Duke of Yorks - E. Holman Clark
1915 - Unity Moore - New Theatre - Arthur Wontner
1916 - Unity Moore - New Theatre - E. Holman Clark
1917 - Fay Compton - New Theatre - E. Holman Clark
1918 - Faith Celli - New Theatre - Julian Royce
1919 - Georgette Cohan - New Theatre - Allan Jeayes
1920 - Edna Best - St James’s - Henry Ainley
1921 - Joan Maclean - St. James’s - Ernest Thesiger
1922 - Edna Best - St. James’s - Lyn Harding
1923 - Gladys Cooper - Adelphi - Franklin Dyall
1924 - Gladys Cooper - Adelphi - Ian Hunter
1925 - Dorothy Dickson - Shaftesbury - Lyn Harding
1926 - Dorothy Dickson - Adelphi - Alfred Drayton
1927 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - Gaiety - William Luff
1928 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - Garrick - Malcolm Keen
1929 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - St. James’s - Sir Gerald Du Maurier
1930 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - Palladium - George Curzon
1931 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - Palladium - George Curzon
1932 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - Palladium - George Curzon
1932 - Palladium Programme
1933 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - Palladium - Sir Ralph Richardson
1934 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - Palladium - George Curzon
1935 - Nova Pilbeam - Palladium - George Hayes
1936 - Elsa Lanchester - Palladium - Charles Laughton
1937 - Anna Neagle - Palladium - George Curzon
1938 - Jean Forbes-Robertson - Palladium - Sir Seymour Hicks
Peter Pan is suspended during the early years of World War Two
1941 - Barbara Mullen - Adelphi - Alastair Sim
1942 - Ann Todd - Winter Garden - Alastair Sim
1943 - Glynis Johns - Cambridge Theatre - Baliol Holloway
1944 - Frances Day - Stoll - Walter Fitzgerald
1945 - Celia Lipton - Scala - George Curzon
1945 - Scala Programme
1946 - Mary Morris - Scala - Alastair Sim
1947 - Phyllis Calvert - Scala - Peter Murray-Hill
1948 - Joan Hopkins - Scala - George Curzon
1949 - Margaret Lockwood - Scala - John Justin
1950 - Margaret Lockwood - Scala - Alan Judd
This list includes the major stars of their respective eras. From Nina Boucicault, Cissie Loftus and Pauline Chase, to Forties film stars like (Dame) Anna Neagle, Phyllis Calvert, Margaret Lockwood (her daughter Julia was to later play Peter Pan), Movie Star Anne Todd and Nova Pilbeam, the husband and wife team of Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton, Glynis John, Sir Ralph Richardson, Alastair Sim and not forgetting Dorothy Dickson, the leading lady of the 1920’s. In 1950 the great film actor Boris Karloff played Captain Hook at the Imperial Theatre in New York.
*I had the great pleasure of meeting Dorothy Dickson in the 1980’s, at a reception at the Palladium. At that time she was over ninety years of age, and a remarkable, witty extremely well preserved lady.
1951 - Joan Greenwood - Scala - George Curzon
1952 - Brenda Bruce - Scala - James Donald
1953 - Pat Kirkwood - Scala - Sir Donald Woolfit
1954 - Barbara Kelly - Scala - Richard Wordsworth
1955 - Peggy Cummins - Scala - Jack Thring
1956 - Janette Scott - Scala - John McCallum
1957 - Margaret Lockwood - Scala - Michael Warre
1958 - Sarah Churchill - Scala - John Justin
1959 - Julia Lockwood - Scala - Richard Wordsworth
1960 - Julia Lockwood - Scala - (Sir) Donald Sinden
1961 - Anne Heywood - Scala - John Gregson
1962 - Tom Arnold’s “Peter Pan On Ice”. - Empire Pool. Wembley
1963 - Julia Lockwood - Scala - Alastair Sim
Julia Lockwood - 1963
1964 - Dawn Addams - Scala - Alastair Sim
1965 - Sylvia Sims - Scala - Ronald Lewis
1966 - Julia Lockwood - Scala - Ron Moody
1967 - Millicent Martin - Scala - Paul Daneman
1968 - Wendy Craig - Scala - Alastair Sim
1969 - Hayley Mills - New Victoria - Bill Travers
1971 - Dorothy Tutin - Coliseum - Eric Porter
1972 - Dorothy Tutin - Coliseum - Ron Moody
1972 - Lulu - Palace Manchester - Anthony Sharp
1973 - Maggie Smith - Coliseum - Dave Allen
1974 - Anita Harris - Royal Ct Liverpool - Alan Curtis
Anita Harris - 1974
The last two decades saw “Peter Pan” firmly established each Christmas at the Scala Theatre, presented by Daniel Mayer Company as usual. This decade featured stars such as Pat Kirkwood, Brenda Bruce, Joan Greenwood and Peggy Cummins. It saw not only Margaret Lockwood, but her daughter Julia. It saw the film star Janette Scott (daughter of Thora Hird) and Hayley Mills, along with the Shakespearean actress Dorothy Tutin, Maggie Smith (A show I watched in awe at the Coliseum, with the exception of the crocodile who was very elderly) and the current musical stars Lulu and Anita Harris.
Ron Moody strutted the stage as did Alistair Sim, a veteran “Hook”, Donald Sinden, later “Sir Donald” swaggered in a role that Barrie might have written especially for him, and the surprise casting of Dave Allen made for an exciting show, pitting him against Maggie Smith- flying long before Hogwort’s Academy thought of it!
The most popular musical version of Peter Pan was written in 1954. Presented by Jerome Robbins it began life as a play with music by Moose Charlap and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh. However, the musical numbers grew and encompassed the creative talents of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, for lyrics and additional music by Julie Styne.
An excellent website with information on the current musical can be found at www.peter-pan.com. Here you can listen to extracts and browse a gallery of theatre pictures. The Encyclopaedia website Wikipedia features a lot of information and further pictures on www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Pan
This 1954 version took over from the previous 1950 Leonard Bernstein musical, and established Broadway star Mary Martin as America’s premier Peter Pan. Cathy Rigby- a gymnastic Peter also achieved fame in this role, and recently toured America as Peter Pan. In 1979 Sandy Duncan took over Pan’s crown as the leading Broadway “Principal Boy”. Cathy Rigby starred in the cable network version of 2000, with the songs from the original 1954 score.
In the UK among the star performers who took to the rooftops of London were Anita Harris, Lulu and Bonnie Langford.
In 1955 NBC broadcast a restaged version with Mary Martin-live, and filmed it once again in 1956. Mary Martin filmed it yet again in 1960. In 1976 NBC presented a new musical version with Mia Farrow and Danny Kaye- music by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. However, it is the 1954 version that is mostly performed today all over the world.
Disney and Peter Pan
The Disney cartoon version was released on February 5th 1953. The fifteen year old actor Bobby Driscoll created Peter’s voice, and the famous songs were created by Sammy Cahn, Sammy Fain and by Frank Churchill.
Walt Disney first planned to do Peter Pan in 1935. By 1939 he had discussed the copyright with the Great Ormond Street Hospital, and began production in 1949. Since it’s release in 1953 the film has been released over and over again in cinemas, and was released on video in 1990, and later on DVD format.
The enduring symbol of Tinkerbell remains- she is the Disney icon to be found on Walt Disney films and television productions.
For fun, games and even a visit to Tinker Bell’s beauty parlour, try www.disney.go.com/characters/peterpan/index.html
Alterations to the copyright meant that a Pantomime version of “Peter Pan” could be created. Strictly it is not a pantomime- see the article “Is Peter Pan A Pantomime” on this site- but over the last Twelve Years the Barrie Version has adapted itself into a pantomime format. Earlier versions were credited as “adapted from J.M. Barrie”, and then as “The Adventures of…” and “The New Adventures of…” until today when the subject is proving to be one of the most popular around the country.
In the mid 1990’s you could go to the National Theatre in London to see a traditional “Peter Pan” at the Olivier, or visit a more “panto” version in another part of London.
The panto encompasses all the elements of Barrie’s original story. Today the effects have become spectacular, and, just as they did in the Play version that ran each year throughout this century, today top actors and entertainers are queuing up to appear as the boy who wouldn’t grow up, and the dastardly Captain Hook.
Henry Winkler - Captain Hook in Wimbledon 2006/7
This year sees the appearance of the American star Henry (The Fonz) Winkler in the Hook role- a part that attracted the theatrical greats of the past- and for over twelve years the panto version has attracted British luminaries. This year Nigel Havers takes on the role. Recently the role attracted Brian Blessed, Ron Moody and Derek Griffiths to buckle a swash in Never Land.
Joe Pasquale has become identified with his roles as Smee in panto, alongside Bonnie Langford and Leslie Grantham as Hook. Hook has been played often by Russ Abbot, Patrick Mower, Paul Nicholas and Alvin Stardust in recent times.
Some versions have tried to introduce the Dame character to the plot- as a Nursemaid, but in the minds of children the big shaggy lovable dog “Nana” will always hold that role.
Peter Pan’s have recently included Sonia, Michaela Strachan, Julie Buckfield, and Kerris Peeling in the role. Peter has sometimes even been played by a boy- a great break with tradition!
It’s refreshing in this age when more and more Pantomimes are using male Principal boys in preference to the Female Principal boy, that, when casting Peter Pan the producers nearly always go “with tradition” and choose a female for the role! When you consider the history of Peter Pan since 1904, the ladies certainly hold the title!
In fact, when Bobby Driscoll voiced Peter in the Disney film of 1954, he was the first male to play that role- even if it was just vocally!
This season there are over eighteen productions of a pantomime Peter Pan around the country. Amongst them there are at least five Male Peter’s. These include Aston Merrygold at Belfast, Cameron Stout, Lee Brennan, Peter Nillson and Marcus Ashley.
There are also a few Dame roles among these- including Belfast’s own May McFettridge, and Glasgow’s Dean Park.
The Female Peter’s include Sophie Lawrence, Dani Harmer (Tracey Beaker), Lucinda Cowden and Claire Huckle, while the Hooks include Gary Wilmot and Michael Greco.
The Pantomimes all enjoy a happy ending for the Lost boys, and for the Darling Children. Peter’s life, as the sequel novel shows has had it’s ups and downs.
Sadly the Barrie story did not fare so well. The newspapers in America and the UK announced the following headline on 5th April 1960.
“The Boy who never grew up is dead”
“Barrie’s Peter Pan killed by a London Subway Train”
The papers reported that Peter Llewellyn Davies, a 63 year old successful publisher threw himself in front of the underground train at Sloane Square Station. Peter himself often referred to the play as “that terrible Masterpiece”. His entire life was spent as the object of curiosity about the character based on him and his four brothers. Brother George had died fighting during the First World War, while Michael drowned at Oxford in 1920.
Barrie’s life after Peter was fraught. Both the boy’s parents, Sylvia and Arthur died shortly after each other- Arthur in 1907, and his wife in 1910.
Barrie, divorced in 1908 went on to look after the five boys, almost single handedly- they were now his “lost Boys”.
His one regret was that he too never truly “grew up”. At the age of fourteen he seemed to stop growing, and remained 5’ for the rest of his life.
“Six Foot three inches- if only I had really grown to this. I would have not bothered turning out reels of printed matter- read that with a bitter cry!”
Luckily for us, J.M.Barrie did “turn out” reels of novels and plays. He also created one of the most enduring characters of all time, and this centuries newest Fairy Tale character for future generations to know and to love.
Some of the pictures on this page supplied by and used with permission of Simon Moss
Simon Moss is a London-based theatre memorabilia dealer, C20th specialises in pantomime ephemera - www.c20th.com.
This page was last updated 18th October 2006