Night Must Fall

Definition

Theater

  • A thriller by Emlyn Williams. His first major success,the play had its premiere in 1935 at the Duchess Theatre, London,and ran for a year. Williams also played the leadingrole - a maniacal baby-faced murderer. The critic Audrey Williamsonwrote that "his dramatic power held the stage and, with a pervertedcharm, wrung pity from the pitiless." A year later the playopened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it enjoyedsimilar success.

    The play, set in a bungalow in an Essex forest, involves MrsBramson who lives with her niece Olivia, her maid Dora, and her cookMrs Terence. When Dora becames pregnant, Mrs Bramson decides to putpressure on her boyfriend, Dan, to marry her. Meanwhile, the policehave begun to investigate the disappearance of a woman from a nearbyhotel; Olivia suspects Dan, who is a bell boy there. Dan works himselfinto Mrs Bransom's affections, however, and leaves his hotel job tomove into the bungalow. The police discover the missing woman's headlessbody, and Olivia becomes convinced that the head is in Dan's hatbox.One night, while alone with Mrs Bramson, Dan smothers her. When Oliviareturns unexpectedly, he decides that she, too, has to be murdered;she is only saved by the arrival of the police. Olivia, who has becomefascinated with Dan, now tries to cover up for him. He rejects herhelp and leaves with the police.

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