The RC Sherriff project is nearly over but every month we receive more enquiries about Sherriff and information relating to his literary legacy from researchers who have visited us to delve into his unique archive.

One such researcher is Emily Curtis Walters and for this blog we are featuring her newly published article ‘Between Entertainment and Elegy: The unexpected success of Journey’s End’, from the Journal of British Studies. Emily (formerly Van Buren), is a PhD. candidate in modern European History at Northwestern University and has visited us on several occasions over the last few years researching all things Journey’s End. She also spent time at the University of Michigan where Maurice Browne’s papers are held. Browne was crucial to the play’s (and indeed Sherriff’s) success. The Incorporated Stage Society had only agreed to stage the play at the Apollo Theatre for just two nights on 9 and 10 December 1928. However, the London critics responded enthusiastically and Maurice Browne stepped forward to be the play’s producer for its West End stint. It opened at the Savoy Theatre on 21 January 1929. In her article, Emily explores the marketing and reception of the play and how it was revived by veterans and prisoners of war during the Second World War.

Set design by James Whale for Journey’s End, 1929, (SHC ref 2332/6/13/4)

Set design by James Whale for Journey’s End, 1929,
(SHC ref 2332/6/13/4)

In her article, Emily features an illustration of a set design by James Whale for Journey’s End, dated 1929, which exists in the Maurice Browne papers at University of Michigan Special Collections. An exact copy of this also exists here in the Sherriff archive (SHC ref 2332/6/13/4). James Whale was the play’s original director and would go on to direct the Hollywood films of several of Sherriff’s screenplays. In his autobiography, No Leading Lady, Sherriff recalled visiting Whale’s Chelsea flat to see a model of his design for the set. He recalled “…Above all it was real. There may never have been a dugout like this one: but any man who had lived in the trenches would say: “This is it: this is what it was like” …” (No Leading Lady, p.49).

Unfortunately we’re cannot supply an online link to the article for copyright reasons but you can read more about Emily’s studies and work at http://www.tgs.northwestern.edu/about/news-events/stories/2016/emily-curtis-walters-phd-candidate-in-history-and-storyteller-.html and on her blog http://www.emilycurtiswalters.com/  If anyone would like to read the article please contact Emily for further details.

For our previous blog on the global public reaction to Journey’s End see https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/sherriff-blog-9/

Di Stiff, Collections Development Archivist, Surrey History Centre

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