Sunday, November 25, 2018

November 25th...This Day in History (Mousetrap opens in London + others)

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Mousetrap opens in London 1952

“The Mousetrap,” a murder-mystery written by the novelist and playwright Agatha Christie, opens at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. The crowd-pleasing whodunit would go on to become the longest continuously running play in history, with more than 10 million people to date attending its more than 20,000 performances in London’s West End.

When “The Mousetrap” premiered in 1952, Winston Churchill was British prime minister, Joseph Stalin was Soviet ruler, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was president-elect. Christie, already a hugely successful English mystery novelist, originally wrote the drama for Queen Mary, wife of the late King George V. Initially called “Three Blind Mice,” it debuted as a 30-minute radio play on the queen’s 80th birthday in 1947. Christie later extended the play and renamed it “The Mousetrap”—a reference to the play-within-a-play performed in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

On November 25, 1952, 453 people took their seats in the Ambassadors Theatre for the London premiere of Christie’s “Mousetrap.” The drama is played out at “Monkswell Manor,” whose hosts and guests are snowed in among radio reports of a murderer on the loose. Soon a detective shows up on skis with the terrifying news that the murderer, and probably the next victim, are likely both among their number. Soon the clues and false leads pile as high as the snow. At every curtain call, the individual who has been revealed as the murderer steps forward and tells the audience that they are “partners in crime” and should “keep the secret of the whodunit locked in their heart.”

Richard Attenborough and his wife, Sheila Sim, were the first stars of “The Mousetrap.” To date, more than 300 actors and actresses have appeared in the roles of the eight characters. David Raven, who played “Major Metcalf” for 4,575 performances, is in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the world’s most durable actor, while Nancy Seabrooke is noted as the world’s most patient understudy for 6,240 performances, or 15 years, as the substitute for “Mrs. Boyle.”

“The Mousetrap” is not considered Christie’s best play, and a prominent stage director once declared that “‘The Mousetrap'” should be abolished by an act of Parliament.” Nevertheless, the show’s popularity has not waned. Asked about its enduring appeal, Christie said, “It is the sort of play you can take anyone to. It is not really frightening. It is not really horrible. It is not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things, and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people.” In 1974, after almost 9,000 shows, the play was moved to St. Martin’s Theatre, where it remains today. Agatha Christie, who wrote scores of best-selling mystery novels, died in 1976.

(More Events on This Day in History)

LITERARY
1951
Charlaine Harris, author of Sookie Stackhouse books, is born
On this day in 1951, novelist Charlaine Harris, creator of the best-selling Sookie Stackhouse series, about a telepathic barmaid and a group of vampires and other supernatural creatures in small-town Louisiana, is born in Mississippi. Harris, who was raised in Tunica, ...

GENERAL INTEREST
1970
Mishima commits ritual suicide
World-renowned Japanese writer Yukio Mishima commits suicide after failing to win public support for his often extreme political beliefs.Born in 1925, Mishima was obsessed with what he saw as the spiritual barrenness of modern life. He preferred prewar Japan, with its austere ...

GENERAL INTEREST
1783
Last British soldiers leave New York
Nearly three months after the Treaty of Paris was signed ending the American Revolution, the last British soldiers withdraw from New York City, their last military position in the United States. After the last Red Coat departed New York, Patriot General George Washington entered ...

GENERAL INTEREST
1963
JFK buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Three days after his assassination in Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy is laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was shot to death while riding in an open-car motorcade with his wife and ...

GENERAL INTEREST
1986
Iran-Contra connection revealed
Three weeks after a Lebanese magazine reported that the United States had been secretly selling arms to Iran, Attorney General Edwin Meese reveals that proceeds from the arms sales were illegally diverted to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua.On November 3, the Lebanese ...

AUTOMOTIVE
1990
Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge sinks to the bottom of Lake Washington
After a howling wind- and rainstorm on Thanksgiving Day, Washington state’s historic floating Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge breaks apart and sinks to the bottom of Lake Washington, between Seattle and its suburbs to the east. Because the bridge’s disintegration happened ...

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