Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Whatsis, Whosis, Thesis! Part 2: The Production History

Production History
            With each major production, a new footnote is made in the history of Guys and Dolls.  From the original Broadway production in 1950 to the most recent Broadway revival in 2009, the show has grown and morphed into this musical juggernaut.  Though each version tries to tweak the show in some fashion, the core concept remains the same: tell the story truthfully.
            The original Broadway production opened in 1950 at the 46th Street Theatre.  Audiences at the time did not know what to expect when they took their seats that opening night.  Besides the typical musical theatre fan, the audience would have been full of critics, ready to skewer the show should it not fit their sensibilities, and a lot of Damon Runyon fans, nervous of how the stage would treat some of their favorite characters.  The Runyon fans had nothing to worry about, and the critics found little to nothing wrong.  In his review of the original production, Richard Watts of the New York Post had this to say: “Guys and Dolls is just what it should be to celebrate the Runyon spirit, vigorous, noisy, humorous, tough on the surface and shamelessly sentimental underneath, filled with the salty characters and richly original language sacred to the memory of the Master, and a pleasure to all beholders” (Garebian 122). 
            As I mentioned previously, Feur and Martin put together an amazing team to work on the musical: Frank Loesser writing music and lyrics, Abe Burrows (eventually) writing the book, with George S. Kaufman directing, and Michael Kidd providing choreography.  Once they had a story to work from, the arduous process of casting began.  There were several theatrical veterans in the ranks of the cast, including former vaudeville stars Netta Packer and Pat Rooney, Jr. commandeering the roles of General Matilda B. Cartwright and Brother Arvide Abernathy, respectively (Garebian 90).  But it was the leads and the supporting cast that really took hold of the production; the triumvirate of Stubby Kaye as Nicely, B.S. Pully as Big Jule, and Johnny Silver as Benny Southstreet fulfilled the production’s wise-guy quota.  They made their characters much larger than life, and really tried to bring the Runyon experience to the stage.  It is no wonder that besides Vivian Blaine, these three were the only cast members to reprise their roles in the film version.  
            The leads were a force to be reckoned with as well.  Robert Alda, father of M*A*S*H star Alan Alda, took the romantic lead of Sky Masterson while his mission doll, Sarah Brown, was played by Isabel Bigley.  The seminal part of Miss Adelaide was Vivian Blaine’s from the moment she was spotted by the producers:
Vivian Blaine was spotted by Feur and Martin…Fluffy-haired and blonde at the time, she was jouncing along on shapely leg, and although she was loaded down with packages, she looked cute…The actress turned her blue eyes to them and said how nice it was to see them again.  Feur and Martin had disappointed her in Hollywood when she auditioned for the part of Sarah Brown.  They had told her she was too strong in voice and appearance for the prim ingĂ©nue.  Now she amiably put that out of her mind as she chatted politely with them…Then Martin said to her: “You know, you’d be wonderful as a honkytonk stripper.” “I beg your pardon?” “I mean, how’d you like to play the comedienne, Miss Adelaide?” “I’ll try anything once” (Garebian 94).
She joined Sam Levene as Nathan Detroit.  Sadly, though Levene was the ideal choice to play the charming Nathan, he could not sing a note to save his soul.  Loesser had written several solos and duets between Detroit and other characters.  They now all had to be cut, much to the consternation of Levene.  Instead, he was left with “Sue Me”, the fourth to last song of the show.  With this, Levene could easily speak the song and leave the singing to Blaine. 
            The show played its previews in Philadelphia, and the theatre gods were watching down on the production.  Scared of how the audience would react, he sat there a bundle of nerves.  They seemed to love “Runyonland” and the opening ballet, but, as Keith Garebian explains:
He didn’t have to worry long, for the three horseplayers, Nicely-Nicely, Benny Southstreet, and Rusty Charlie, strolled to center stage with their racing forms, a solo trumpet in the orchestra plays the First Call heard before a big race.  The audience shook with the laughter of “instant recognition,” and Burrows realized that they weren’t simply laughing at a joke-line but at the characters, milieu, and situation.  At the final curtain, the audience went mad, shouting and screaming its approval.  Turning to his wife, Burrows kissed her on the cheek and said: “We’re home” (114).
            By the time the show reached the Great White Way, the critics had heard the hubbub from Philadelphia, and were waiting with baited breath.  Thankfully, the show did not disappoint.  Every review was a rave, and almost every critic agreed that the cast was the greatest asset to the performance (Garebian 123).  The show ran for 1,200 performances, and went on to win 8 Tony Awards, including Best Actor (for Robert Alda), Supporting Actress (for Isabel Bigley), Director, Producers, Book, Composer and Lyricist, Choreographer, and Best Musical (Garebian 124).
            Guys and Dolls would eventually open in England, with several members of the original cast: reprising their roles were Vivian Blaine, Sam Levene, Stubby Kaye, Johnny Silver, and Tom Pedi as Harry the Horse.  Audiences over there loved it, clamored for more.  Even when Blaine was booed on opening night, the entire audience turned on the small section that protested.  There would be several West End revivals over the next several decades.  The casts were always superb, and included such celebrities as Imelda Staunton (Adelaide), Bob Hoskins (Nathan), Ewan Macgregor (Sky), and Jane Krakowski (Adelaide). 
            Similar to many other musicals of the time period, a film version was destined to follow at some point.  However, there were a number of problems that plagued the casting and filming process.  First and foremost was the casting of smooth Frank Sinatra as not-so-smooth Nathan Detroit.  Casting Sinatra meant that there needed to be changes to a lot of the music: songs that Nathan was never a part of were now predominantly his solos, including the title song, which was only Benny and Nicely on stage.  Frank Loesser repeatedly got in fights with Sinatra over the proper way to sing the songs; sadly, Sinatra never budged, and he would later regret being involved with the film (Garebian 128). The other casting issue was Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson.  Now, from an acting standpoint, Brando can easily pull off the smooth, roguish charm that was required.  However, like Sam Levene, Brando could not sing a note to save his life.  When it came time to record his songs, they did multiple takes in the studio, and they later edited them all together, stringing the correct notes together whenever they occurred (Garebian 130). The film made a considerable amount of money, but there were far too many changes made to the script and tone of the show.  It seemed to lose a massive chunk of its humor. 
            1976 Motown Revival
            The 1976 revival was the first big departure from the way the show had been done originally.  Though under the supervision and guidance of Abe Burrows, the entire show was performed by an African American cast, and the show worked remarkably well.  There were several changes made to the tone of the songs – “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “I’ll Know” were considerably altered to more jazzy orchestrations while “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” was definitely a revivalist number now – and several lines were altered to reflect a more urban and less Jewish sensibility: in “I’ll Know”, Sky’s line before Sarah sings the chorus has been changed to “…You have wished yourself a real dumb character.  A square thinking, pencil pushing type” (Cast Recording 3).  The changes were necessary to make the changes in ethnicity truly fit; this was not a color-blind casting situation.  The goal of the piece was to see if it would truly work without a white cast.  And did it ever:
Putting aside the flaws of flimsy sets and sparse choreography, Gussow noted the “black” assets: the funkiness of Ernestine Jackson’s rendition of “If I Were a Bell;” the Duke Ellington accents in James Randolph’s version of “My Time of Day;” Robert Guillaume’s “deadpan and offhanded” Nathan, “somewhat in the manner of Billy Cosby;” and Ken Page’s Nicely-Nicely that turned “Sit Down” into a hand-clapping, tambourine-slapping gospel song, “a soul-stopper (two deserved encores on opening night) that almost obliterates the memory of the seemingly unforgettable Stubby Kaye in the original 1950 Broadway production” (Garebian 133).
Yes, there were changes made, but they never really distracted the audience away from the material.  It also was a blessing to have Abe Burrow at the helm, making sure the changes were still faithful to his original script.
            1992 Revival
            When it was announced that there was going to be another revival of Guys and Dolls, many worried as to how the show would fare.  The original production and film were very consistent on how the material should be treated, and it was far too soon to do another production like the 1976 revival.  Director Jerry Zaks had his own work cut out for him.  Like the original production, he established a top-notch cast to play this amazing show.
            Peter Gallagher claimed the role of Sky Masterson, and though a bit younger than Sky should be, he lent a suaveness and sultriness that was missing from Alda.  It came to be very apparent why Sarah would fall for such a gambler.  As his sparring partner, Josie de Guzman was Sarah Brown.  Though she was not the original choice, after a difficult time with their leading lady, Zaks moved de Guzman up from the ensemble, and she had the spark that Sarah needed to go head-to-head with Sky. 
            Though Nathan and Adelaide are the secondary romantic couple, you would not have thought that after seeing the revival.  Nathan Lane has become the perfect Detroit; most productions have their Nathan attempt to emulate what he does based on the recording and clips of the performance.  He was a Nathan that could actually sing: “and in the ‘Sue Me’ number, usually done as a throwaway, he and his director found something dramatic.  Lane revealed a Nathan sincerely struggling to convince Adelaide that he loved her, and his modulations into tenderness and affection were heartwarming” (Garebian 141).  In addition, Faith Prince gave new life to Adelaide.  She was not afraid to be sensual and hilarious at the same time. 
            The entire production looked as though it were a Technicolor cartoon.  This was not your mother’s Guys and Dolls.  There was still a strong sense of realism, but the entire design was a stylized version of New York, and it was a wonderful way of reinventing the show for a whole new generation.
            2009 Revival (Des McAnuff)
            Broadway had another brand new revival of Guys and Dolls just a few short years ago.  Like the 1992 Jerry Zaks production, they sought to take a new look at the material.  Sadly, the show floundered under the weight of the changes.
            Though Runyon’s stories were written in the 1930s, the show always took place circa the year of the first production: 1950.  In the new production, Director Des McAnuff made the decision to go back to the 1930s; gone were the bright Technicolor suits and colorful scenery.  Instead, audiences were treated to a realistic and somewhat serious musical comedy.  I believe the show can be done this way, but it needed a cast that could still treat Burrows and Runyon’s world with respect.  That was not the case.
            In the role of Nathan Detroit, McAnuff cast Oliver Platt.  This was certainly not McAnuff’s best decision.  Critic Ben Brantley summed it up in his review of the show: “…Mr. Platt never finds a sustained pattern of idiosyncrasies that would let him connect with Nathan (and the audience).  His singing voice is agreeable, small but smooth, but it does not define a character.  His hands often glued to the sides of his jacket, he has the stricken, nauseated expression of someone terrified of being fingered as an imposter” (New York Times). His Adelaide, as played by Lauren Graham of televisions “Gilmore Girls”, did not fare much better.  According to several reviewers, there was no depth to her character.  She stuck herself in the guise of a dumb blonde showgirl, and that goes against what Adelaide stands for. 
            The only characters that seemed to do well were Sky, Sarah, and Nicely.  As Sky and Sarah, Craig Bierko and Kate Jennings Grant displayed a remarkable chemistry, and were pleasant enough in their singing.  The showstopper was Titus Burgess as Nicely-Nicely Johnson.  Contrary to Walter Bobbie in the Zaks revival, Titus was padded to make him as big as a house: just the way Nicely is depicted in Runyon’s stories.  It also did not hurt that Titus has an amazingly powerful voice, and “Sit Down” was re-orchestrated as a massive gospel number.  Sadly, the show did not last too long after the Tony Awards, closing after 121 performances (Ibdb.com 4).

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Whatsis, Whosis, Thesis! Part 1: The Creation of a Masterpiece

“Alright Already, I’m Just A No Goodnick!”
Guys and Dolls: A Musical Fable of Broadway Master’s Thesis


The Creation of a Masterpiece
            The team responsible for creating Guys and Dolls could be considered a “musical dream team.”  Everyone involved had their own minor successes before hooking up with the show, but I honestly do not believe they could have imagined just how successful it was going to be.  You had a writer who made a name for himself writing for radio, but he had never written for the stage; the other writer was a collaborator on films; and the composer/lyricist was a name in Hollywood, but had never written a full-length show.  Throw all of this together, and add in the stories of New York hoodlums and harlots; the end result should not be as successful as it was, but fate had other plans. 
            Damon Runyon
            Damon Runyon, whose short stories served as the inspiration for the musical, was born in Kansas in late 1880.  Not one to just sit around and let life idly pass him by, the young Runyon made every day an adventure.  It was better being outside, using his imagination to its full capacity rather than dealing with his father, Alfred Runyan.  Though Alfred was known for his journalistic prowess and the small newspapers that he published, he still sought trouble and gambling.  As stated in Keith Garebian’s informative book The Making of Guys and Dolls,
The only concession he made to his wife was to move the family to Colorado, where the clear mountain air might alleviate his wife’s health problems.  But shortly after their arrival in 1887, she succumbed to tuberculosis, and Alfred dispatched his three daughters to Kansas where they could be raised by in-laws, while he took charge in his primitive way of Damon who, at the time, was scrawny and high-strung” (13). 
Young Damon became a terror throughout the town; running loose amongst all of the brothels and rough folk that populated the streets.  The one bright spot he would cherish was the occasional nights he would spend at this father’s side, listening to him wax philosophically about “Buffalo Bill Cody and Billy the Kid, and his eclectic quotations from Shakespeare, the Scriptures, Confucius, and Montaigne” (Garebian 13).
            As he grew older, Damon took more and more after his father; instead of just roaming the streets for fun, he began to report on the happenings throughout the town.  Whether it was a fire destroying a farm on the outskirts of town, or some sordid affair taking place in the halls of the only hotel, Runyon was there and making a note of it for his literary followers.  He progressively worked his way up, going from paper to paper making a name for himself.  Runyon even found himself serving in the armed forces during both the Spanish-American War and the U.S. occupation of the Philippines, spending time as an infantry man.  Oddly enough, he also spent several months living among the indigent and traveling the railways across the country (Garebian 14). These escapades would go on to flavor Runyon’s New York writings, like Guys and Dolls and Blue Plate Special,  alluding to a sense of fearlessness of character. 
            The talented writer hit the New York scene in 1910, and quickly ingratiated himself into the journalistic scene.  He had no qualms on what he was reporting, just as long he was able to write about something; whether it was sports or a local political race, Runyon made sure the public was in the know.  However, his upbringing did not make it easy for Damon to fit in with the literary minds of the age; instead of seeking admission to the wealthy and wise world of the Algonquin Round Table, “Runyon was drawn to figures such as Jimmy Walker, Al Capone, and Arnold Rothstein” (Garebian 15).  He even began to ignore his wife and two sons together so he might spend more time with the folks he met every night on the streets, especially the showgirls.  Runyon never grew out of the mentality of his childhood, and he found excitement and acceptance in the world of the criminal elite.  This was the twenties, after all, and everything had an edge of danger to it: from juke joints defying the laws of Prohibition to women taking control of their lives and embracing their inherent sexuality, the world had been turned on its ear. 
            It was this New York that gave Runyon the inspiration for his Broadway stories, which slowly evolved into his collection Guys and Dolls.  Garebian acknowledges this when he writes
“…every rendezvous did fuel his story-telling imagination when it came to writing about his Broadway ‘guys and dolls.’ His characteristic habit of listening silently to others…served him well when it came to examining character through speech patterns. Moreover, his power of observation helped him evoke mood and setting in a few accurate phrases” (15). 
Runyon became a character in his stories by this fashion.  There is a nameless narrator that roams the streets at night, running into friends and acquaintances throughout the city.  Through the eyes and ears of this narrator, the readers and audience experience all of the action.  This action is heightened even further as Runyon evolves his slang terms by focusing less on the everyday jargon and more on the speaking patterns of the criminal underground in New York; this is not the dialogue of normal people.  Instead, we are treated to a world with terms such as “ ‘jug’ (bank), ‘pete’ (safe), ‘pokey’ (jail), ‘damper’ (cash register), ‘cheaters’ (guns), ‘croak’ (die), ‘dukes’ (fists), ‘kisser’ (mouth), ‘shiv’ (knife), and ‘monkey business’ ” (Garebian 20).  Though the terms seem simple, there is an elegance and knowledge placed upon them; the characters that speak these words have a wisdom all of their own, helping them to rise above the common person on the street, and live a life of danger and excitement. 
            Runyon continued to live the high life for as long as he was capable.  His fraternization with the unsavory gents of the time gave him some air of value. However, his true fame came from the publishing of his stories.  They would appear in almost every medium: from weekly magazines to some of the shorter ones coming out in the newspaper every day.  Soon, he became enamored with Hollywood, and began to adapt some of his stories into successful screenplays, including “Madame La Gimp”, which was renamed Lady For a Day by Frank Capra, and Little Miss Marker, which starred Shirley Temple (Garebian 16).  Sadly, Runyon did not make it long after the end of World War II.  He succumbed to throat cancer, and died at the ripe old age of 66 in 1946.  Nevertheless, his legacy survives in his timeless stories, and the juggernaut musical inspired by them.   
            Frank Loesser
            Looking at the history of music in stage and screen, very few can compare with the efforts put forth by Frank Loesser; he not only wrote several hit musicals but also penned a multitude of popular hits that the public still cherishes today. 
            Frank Loesser was a Broadway baby from the start.  Born in 1910, his family lived in the upper portion of New York, and their house was always full of music.  At the mere age of 6, Frank had written his first song, “‘The May Party,’ which celebrated the children’s procession he watched in Central Park” (Garebian 39).  He was always a precocious child but, after the death of his father, Frank began to act out more and more.  In Susan Loesser’s A Most Happy Fella, she recounts her father’s active childhood years:
My father spent much of his childhood in trouble.  Julia would routinely tell Grace “Go see what Frankie is doing and tell him he mustn’t.”  Like his brother Arthur, he was too bright for school; unlike Arthur, he didn’t breeze through it.  He was accepted at Townsend Harris, a three-year high school for gifted children, but expelled before graduation because he put more of his creative energy into practical jokes than into his studies.  At fifteen he was accepted without a high school diploma at City College of New York, then expelled again, shortly after entering – for failing every subject but English and gym, and for polishing the nose of a bronze statue (7-8).
Thankfully, this is when Loesser really found his calling; he soon began writing lyrics with his friends, and they took their songs down to the producers at Tin Pan Alley.  They had very minor success, but a producer out in Hollywood had heard one of his songs on a trip east.  Loesser was soon requested to head to California, and begin work at Universal Studios. 
            Sadly, Loesser’s contract was soon over, with very little chance of negotiations.  He was out on the street until Burton Lane, of Finian’s Rainbow and The Wizard of Oz, heard some of Frank’s lyrics.  He found himself with a new contract at Paramount Studios and a much larger salary than originally anticipated (Susan Loesser 27).  At this point, Loesser began to shine, and he wrote two of his most iconic songs: “Heart and Soul” and “Two Sleepy People”.  Loesser’s only problem was that he was considered just a lyricist; he had never written his own music for his pieces.  That would change at the dawning of World War II, with his seminal work “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” (S. Loesser 39).  He was eager to join the war effort, but he did not want to be in legitimate combat.  Therefore, Private Loesser enlisted and joined the Radio Production Unit, or RPU, which broadcast entertainment over the airwaves for all of the deployed men:
Besides an eighty-man orchestra, the RPU consisted of writers, producers, actors, and singers, all of whom [Colonel Eddie] Dunstedter skimmed from the cream of Hollywood talent as they enlisted or were drafted.  Because of the caliber of the unit, and because Dunstedter already knew most of the celebrities in Hollywood, it was easy to attract well-known guest stars, including Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Dinah Shore, and Rosalind Russell.  The RPU produced some of the finest radio programs of the era (S. Loesser 45).
While a member of the RPU, Loesser helped to create what the Army liked to call “Blue Plate Specials”: they were prepackaged show, with scripts, sketches, and thorough instructions for costumes and production.  These would be shipped to different camps, thereby allowing the soldiers some form of entertainment.  They even popped up on Broadway at one point: in the middle of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, a group of nurses put on a Thanksgiving show for the enlisted men, with sketches, songs, and costumes.  It would make perfect sense for the Thanksgiving Follies to be a “Blue Plate Special.”
            After the war, Loesser was back in Hollywood at the daily grind.  He was not aware of the fame that was coming for him.  In the film Neptune’s Daughter, Frank introduced one of his most popular, non-theatre songs, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  Though he had written it for just him and his wife, he could not refuse when MGM needed a song for the film.  And it turned out wonderfully for him; he was awarded the 1948 Academy Award for Best Original Song. 
            Around this time Loesser was approached by Cy Feur and Ernest Martin, who would go on to produce Guys and Dolls.  However, they had another show in mind for Frank.  They wanted to make a stage musical out of the classic British farce Charley’s Aunt.  Loesser readily agreed to work with him, and the show opened 1948.  Starring the incomparable Ray Bolger, it was not a huge success.  The most memorable song was “Once in Love with Amy”, sung by Bolger in order to cover a scene change.  Then, one night, Bolger went up on the lyrics, and a son of one of the actors called out the words from the audience.  From then on, the song became a group number, and ticket sales began to climb (S. Loesser 90).  Though the show was modestly successful, Loesser did not know what he had in store for the future. 
            Feur and Martin approached Loesser not soon after he won the Oscar for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with the idea of doing a musical based on the works of Damon Runyon.  Frank was more than willing to work on it, and he composed 14 songs to go along with Swerling’s initial treatment of the show.  However, things were not going well, so Loesser helped to talk Abe Burrows into writing his own treatment.  Thankfully, Burrows knew exactly what the show needed, and they had a bona fide success on their hands. 
            From this point on, almost every show Loesser touched had some form of success: Hans Christian Anderson turned out to be a smash hit for Danny Kaye and gave birth to some amazing songs, including “Wonderful Copenhagen” and “Anywhere I Wander.”  After that, Frank went back to the stage with the semi-operatic The Most Happy Fella, with the standout hit “Standing on the Corner.” 
            Loesser’s next musical was almost as big a success as Guys and Dolls.  How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying brought back together Loesser with Burrows and the producing team of Feur and Martin.  It was just a matter of time until they struck gold again.  With a cast led by Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee, the show garnered several Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  Unfortunately, Loesser never had another huge success after How to Succeed.  He continued to write, but nothing ever really jumped out for him, and, like Runyon, he passed away from cancer in 1969.  He will never be forgotten, mainly due to the popularity of “Heart and Soul.”
            Abe Burrows
            In his autobiography Honest, Abe, writer Abe Burrows sums himself up in one simple sentence: “I want to state flatly, unequivocally, and without any apologies, that I am a native New Yorker” (20).  This rather blatant statement alludes to how perfect Burrows would be in adapting the stories of one of New York’s biggest fans, Damon Runyon.  Born in Manhattan on December 8, 1910, Burrows grew up well-acquainted with fame and celebrity.  At different points during his childhood, he would live next to Sholem Aleichem and Benny Leonard, and young Abe attended school at New Utrecht, which served as “alma mater to many who became big names in show business, such as opera start Robert Merrill, comedians Phil Foster and Buddy Hackett, producer Cy Feur, and choreographer Michael Kidd” (Garebian 26).  These last two names would prove to be very valuable in Abe’s future; Feur had the idea to write a musical based on Damon Runyon’s stories, and Kidd would go on to choreograph Guys and Dolls.
            Though his family had showbiz sensibilities and would entertain folks at the drop of a hat, Burrows had other plans.  While still in school, he began working on Wall Street as a runner:
“But back in my day any stuff that had to be delivered or picked up was handled by a runner, an errand boy with one difference: a runner really ran.  When the stock market was open, Broad Street – the main thoroughfare – was closed to vehicular traffic for a good part of the day; and it became a racetrack.  We would pick up stock certificates and deliver them on the dead run” (Burrows 27).
 Sadly, Burrows did not last long in this career.  He could not fight the chaos caused by the Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression though he did his job well. 
            While at this low point, Burrows had the support of his former co-workers and family.  They all considered him to be a very funny man, and Abe would eventually collaborate with several other writers.  Together, they wrote sketches for many popular comedians and radio shows of the time, including The Rudy Vallee Show and Duffy’s Tavern.  Oddly enough, after Duffy’s Tavern appeared on the airwaves, Burrows received a telegram from Damon Runyon commending him for his excellent depiction of the New York dialogue (Garebian 27).
            Burrows soon became a household name, and he was a regular guest at the fanciest of parties throughout the country.  It was at one of these parties that Burrows and Loesser first made each other’s acquaintance.  Loesser was in the middle of what was to become Guys and Dolls, and had written several songs for Jo Swerling’s first act.  The songs were great, but he felt they would be wonderful no matter the show:
Loesser’s songs were the guideposts for the libretto.  It’s a rare show that is done this way, but all fourteen of Frank’s songs were great, and the libretto had to be written so that the story would lead into each of them.  Later on, the critics spoke of the show as “integrated.”  The word “integration” usually means that the composer has written songs that follow the story line gracefully.  Well, we did it in reverse.  Most of the scenes I wrote blended into the songs that were already written (Block 237).
The producers would soon ask Burrows to come in and help change the focus of the musical.   The serious, romantic drama that Swerling was writing needed to be completely changed up; the material lent itself to musical comedy, and Burrows would be more than capable of writing the show.  Not only was he known for his comedy, but he was a native New Yorker, and he experienced much of the same things that Runyon would write about. 
            Once the show opened, Burrows became an overnight success. Other productions were calling him in to help doctor their shows, thereby saving them in some cases.  He would eventually have his name connected to Can-Can, Silk Stockings, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and his second collaboration with Frank Loesser, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.  How to Succeed proved to be Burrow’s second most successful show.  He even shared a Pulitzer Prize with Loesser for the script and score (Susan Loesser 213).  Burrows would remain a musical and literary icon till his death from Alzheimer’s in 1985. 
            Jo Swerling
            Though Abe Burrows ended up writing the brunt of the script, he was not the only one to try his hand at adapting the Runyon catalogue for the stage.  Jo Swerling beat him to it.  Swerling, born in 1893 in what is now called the Ukraine, moved to New York at the dawning of the new century.  Much like Runyon, he roamed the street doing odd jobs, and he soon found himself working as a journalist for several different newspapers and magazines, including the legendary Vanity Fair (Imdb.com). While working for the papers, Swerling started writing short plays and vaudeville sketches, including pieces for the Mark Brothers.  Sadly, he never achieved major success with his stage works. 
Once the stock market crashed, Swerling made the decision to leave New York and to try his hand at writing for film (Imdb.com).  Though the world was in an economic spiral, the public still needed some kind of escape.  Therefore, movies grew larger and larger in popularity.  They were much cheaper to produce, and it was a lot cheaper for an audience to see a film compared to buying a ticket for a stage show.  Swerling had minor successes in Hollywood; he was unable to really find his niche until he was invited to work on the Frank Capra film Ladies of Leisure.  He went on to collaborate with Capra on his next five films, including the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life  in 1946 (Imdb.com).  Not only that, but Swerling garnered an Oscar nomination for his work on The Pride of the Yankees, starring Gary Cooper.
It was around this time that Jo Swerling was approached to write the libretto for Guys and Dolls. He was not the original choice, but Robert Carson was needed to fulfill a previous obligation on the screenplay of the James Stewart film Harvey (Garebian 10).  Having spent such a large chunk of his life in New York, Swerling was glad to have a shot at the script, and he had hammered out a first act for producers Cy Feur and Ernest Martin in 1949.  His original treatment was very different from the way that the show eventually turned out; Swerling’s goal, it seemed, was to remain as faithful as possible to Runyon’s stories and maintain a romantic climate similar to the one found in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific (Garebian 21).  The problem with this was Runyon’s style does not transfer well to the stage without real adaptions.  It was a very stilted and clinical version of the stories.  When Abe Burrows came in, Swerling knew that his book was going to be drastically altered.  Therefore, he reached an agreement with the producer.  Keith Garebian explains it best:
Feur and Martin worked out a settlement with Swerling who agreed to withdraw from the project on condition that he retain a diminished royalty and the right to read the final script and to determine what billing, if any, he should get himself.  It was a delicate situation because Swerling and Burrows knew each other.  But a deal was arranged that satisfied Swerling and the Dramatists Guild, and Abe Burrows, the erudite funnyman was a new part of the Guys and Dolls team (Garebian 24).
This agreement worked out perfectly fine until the show was nearing its opening.  As it was agreed upon in the settlement, the script was sent to Swerling.  Since the producers changed the entire tone of the show from a romantic drama to a full-fledged musical comedy, very little - to nothing - remained of what Swerling wrote.  That being said, once he had read the script, he demanded a billing credit.  Garebian delves even deeper in The Making of Guys and Dolls.  After Swerling’s son wrote an incensed letter to the New York Times after a review of the revival credited Burrows as the primary book writer (“Guys and Dolls: Abe Burrows: Undue Credit”), the producers of the original production, Cy Feur and Ernest Martin, wrote a response back to the editor:
Swerling and other writers made valiant but vain efforts to articulate our concept of the Damon Runyon material we had purchased.  But Abe Burrows wrote the script that is on the stage.  Under our Dramatists Guild agreement with him, we were obliged to persuade Swerling to withdraw from the project before we could engage another writer.  He agreed on the condition that he retain a diminished royalty and the right to read the actual script to determine what billing, if any, he should get for his attempt to write the show.  A few days before the opening in Philadelphia, Burrow’s finished script was sent to Swerling.  Because Abe had written every word, we had already presented the Playbill copy for the Shubert Theater in Philadelphia, which read, “Book by Abe Burrows.”  To our dismay and to the shock of Frank Loesser, who wrote the score, and George S. Kaufman, who directed, we got a telegram from Swerling’s agent demanding billing.  We had no choice but to comply.  Swerling’s billing so aroused Abel Green, the editor of the Weekly Variety, that soon after the opening he published a lengthy piece pointing our Swerling’s violation of an “author’s code of ethics.”  Sue us. Sue us.  Shoot bullets through us.  We love Abe! CY FEUR, ERNEST H. MARTIN NEW YORK [sic] (“Guys and Dolls: And the Winner Is…”)
Swerling’s name is still listed under the book writers, usually appearing before Burrows, and they shared the Tony Awards and Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and for Best Authors (Imdb.com).  Though he continued to write for film and helped adapt the screen version of Guys and Dolls, Swerling did not have another major success.  He passed away in 1964.