A play by George S. Kaufman
and Edna Ferber
, The Royal Family
lampooned the famous Barrymore family
acting clan. A hit, the show ran for 345 performances, the prolific and successful Kaufman's longest running show to that time.
The most severely ridiculed Barrymores were John and Ethel. The character
Tony Cavendish, a heavy-drinking womanizer
, represents John Barrymore
. Julie Cavendish is the prima donna Broadway
star Ethel Barrymore
. Ethel Barrymore was offended and her critical comments were quoted by the press; however John Barrymore saw the production in Los Angeles
and was amused, and congratulated Fredric March
on his performance as Tony Cavendish. (Otto Kruger
had played the role on Broadway.)
The Royal Family was made into a motion picture feature, The Royal Family of Broadway, released in 1930 by Paramount Pictures.
In England, Noel Coward directed the West End version of the play in 1934, with a cast that included Laurence Olivier as Tony.
Before moving to Broadway, the play had successful out-of-town try-outs in Newark and Atlantic City.
The Royal Family opened one day after the revolutionary musical Show Boat, based on Ferber's novel of the same title.
Edna Ferber herself acted in The Royal Family at the Maplewood Theater in 1940, in a production staged by Cheryl Crawford (see LIFE Magazine, Sept 23, 1940)
A revival of the comedy was one of the highlights of the 1975-76 season on Broadway. Directed by Ellis Rabb, it starred Rosemary Harris as Julie Cavendish, George Grizzard as Tony, and Eva Le Gallienne as the theatrical matriarch, Fanny. It won Rabb the 1976 Tony award for best director. The production was later telecast on PBS, with Rabb replacing Grizzard as Tony, and this version is now on DVD.
Several live TV productions of the play have been produced, including one in 1954, with Fredric March reprising his role as Tony, Helen Hayes as Fanny, and Claudette Colbert as Julie. The only complete version of the play shown on TV, however, is the aforementioned PBS telecast; all of the others have been one-hour condensed adaptations.