The Purple Door Knob
Other Plays by Walter Prichard Eaton
Eaton, Walter Prichard (American playwright, author, drama critic, lecturer, expert on Eugene O’Neill, 1878–d. February 26, 1957, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A), “The Purple Door Knob,”
a __-minute comedy in English, set in the bedroom of Mrs. Bartholomew, a second story chamber in a little Massachusetts village, afternoon, late 1920s,
© ____ by Walter Prichard Eaton;
• in Walter Prichard Eaton’s The Purple Door Knob (New York: Samuel French, Inc., ____), SF 863;
• script/rights formerly available from Samuel French, Inc., 45 West 25th Street, New York, New York 10010-2751, U.S.A., e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.samuelfrench.com, telephone 212-206-8990, fax 212-206-1429.
• rights could possibly be obtained through the guidance of the curator of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale Collection of American Literature, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticutt, U.S.A.
• Cited in 1/2/3/4 for the Show: A Guide to Small-Cast One-Act Plays, vol 1, (Lanham, Maryland, U.S.A.: The Scarecrow Press, 1995), ISBN 0810829851, 273 pp.
Mrs. Bartholomew (f), an old lady; Mrs. Amanda Dunbar (f), servant to Mrs. Bartholomew; Viola Cole (f), a preeminent young actress.
Mrs. Bartholomew, old, invalid, bedridden and bored, asks her nurse-companion, Mrs. Dunbar for entertainment but rejects every suggestion. She yearns for “something new, somebody new.” Into this doldrum arrives Viola Cole, who wants to buy the front doorknob. The hostess and visitor vie for conversational dominance, the old lady playing on being an invalid, the actress on being deeply concerned. When Mrs. Bartholomew challenges Viola’s knowing about and wanting the doorknob, the actress identifies herself and her fame. It happens that the old lady used to love theatre; she asks about and praises long-departed famous actors. She offers the doorknob in exchange for a well-acted scene. Viola agrees—if Mrs. Bartholomew will portray a queen for the duologue. The actress supplies improvised crown and sceptre, and the old lady transforms into a queen with Cleopatra qualities. Viola prepares herself, becomes a suppliant, and begs for the rescue of a kidnapped sister, for which the ransom is “the great jewel of Egypt—it is the royal amethyst!!” Viola’s intensity and acting skill win the old lady’s admiration and the doorknob. They summon Mrs. Dunbar to have Viola’s chauffeur remove the doorknob. The actress seeks Mrs. Bartholomew’s friendship and with a kiss promises to return. After she leaves, the nurse-companion agrees to call a handyman to secure the front door then settles the happy old lady into a satisfied rest.
• The author, a well-known American theatre scholar in the 1930s and 1940s, here gives a good example of sentimental comedy. From an earlier era, this script merits revival. It has slight literary quality and shows self-indulgence for theatre folk (because of its focus on their concerns), still it offers valid entertainment for the general public. His books on theater include The Actor's Heritage (1924) and The Theatre Guild: The First Ten Years (1929).
• Eaton’s manuscripts, including this one, are archived at Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale Collection of American Literature.
acting, Cleopatra, companionship, ennui, fame, first encounter, friendship, invalid, jewel, nursing, ransom, supplication, theatre.