No Time for Comedy is a 1940 film based on the play of the same name by S. N. Behrman, starring James Stewart, Rosalind Russell, Genevieve Tobin and Charles Ruggles.
Gaylord Esterbrook (Stewart), a reporter from Redfield, Minnesota (pop. 786, including livestock), writes a play about Park Avenue high society
, even though he has never been to New York
. The play is being staged, but needs rewriting, so the producers bring Gaylord to New York. He meets the leading lady, Linda Paige (Russell), who initially mistakes him for an usher. The producer eventually lost faith in the play, but Linda persuades the other actors to continue on a cooperative basis. It becomes a success, and Gaylord and Linda get married. Gaylord proceeds to have four hits in four years, all starring Linda.
After his most recent hit, Gaylord meets Amanda Swift (Tobin) at a party. She feels that his talents are being wasted writing comedies. At her urging, he writes a tragedy about immortality called The Way of the World. The play has no part for Linda. Gaylord eventually decides to divorce Linda and marry Amanda. Linda then decides to marry Amanda’s husband, Philo (Ruggles).
The Way of the World is a flop, with audiences laughing at unintentionally funny lines, prompting Amanda to drop Gaylord. However, Linda supports Gaylord in his time of need and they reconcile. She gets the idea for a comedy about smug, contemptible, callous stuffed shirts who think that dictators are inevitable and the average man is bloodthirsty and contemptible. Gaylord and Linda decide to start over, and even act out their initial meeting: Gaylord buys Linda cigarettes as if he were an usher.
S. N. Behrman
's play opened on Broadway
at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre
on April 17, 1939 and ran for 179 performances. The cast included Laurence Olivier
as Gaylord Esterbrook and Katharine Cornell
as Linda Paige, and was directed by Cornell's husband Guthrie McClintic