Figure 1.--"Mrs. McThing" is today a little known play, in part because it was never made into a film. The play deals with the insistance of some parents that small boys should always scrub behind their ears and demands for other adult standards of perfection. The play stared Brande de Wilde, better known for his performances in "Member of the Wedding" and "Shane". Brandon played Howay, a normally rather mischevious boy. Notice the Blue Boy painting with Howay's face.
Mrs. McThing is today a little known play, in part because it was never made into a film. It was, however, a delightful comic romp by Mary Chase, the writer better known for another comedy--Harvey about a large imaginary rabbit. Chase in Mrs. McThing deals with the insistance of some parents that small boys should always scrub behind their ears and demands for other adult standards of perfection. Mrs. McThing is a meddlesome witch, perhaps not ion the same literary plane as Haevey, but a fun play nonetheless. The play stared Brandon de Wilde, better known for his performances in Member of the Wedding and Shane. Brandon played Howay, a normally rather mischevious boy.
Mrs. McThing is today a little known play, in part because it was never made into a film.
Mrs. McThing was, however, a delightful comic romp by Mary Coyle Chase (1907- ), the writer better known for another comedy--Harvey about a large imaginary rabbit.
The play stared Helen Hayes, but also included a rising child star--Brandon de Wilde.
The play stared Helen Hayes who beautifully plays Mrs. Larue, Howay's superscilious mother. See how she beams with pride at her "reformed" son with her prissy guests at an ever so proper tea (figure 1).
Howay Larue is artfully played by Brandon de Wilde, better known for his performances in Member of the Wedding and Shane. Brandon was just becoming known to American audiences after his impressive performance as the energetic John Henry in . At the time of Mrs. McThing, however, he had not yet appeared in Shane.
I'm not sure who palyed Mrs. McThing's daughter. Some of the supporting cast like the ladies at the tea party and Poison Eddy were very good.
Chase in Mrs. McThing deals with the insistance of some parents that small boys should always scrub behind their ears and demands for other adult standards of perfection. Howay was normally a rather mischevious boy. Certainly not meeting up to his mother's standards and high expectations.
Figure 2.--This enlargement gives a better image of oh-so-good Howay's outfit when his mother entertains her friends at tea.
Mrs. McThing is a very meddlesome witch. She is perhaps not on the same literary plane as Harvey--Chase's loveeable large whilte rabbit that Jimmy Stuart made famous in the movie version. Even so, Mrs. McThing is a fun play nonetheless. The play stared Brande de Wilde, better known for his performances in Member of the Wedding and Shane. Brandon played Howay, a normally rather mischevious boy who gives his demanding mother a great deal of trouble. The witch Mrs. McThing is offended when Mrs. Larue makes the mistake of snubbing her daugter who she sees as a street urchin. She then decided to spirit Howay from his rich mother because she is trarting her daughter rather shabily. Howay for his part is delighted with his new surroundings--a diner pool hall!
This particular poolhall is the gangout for a gang of gangsters. Howay is not quite sure what has happened, but he quickly warms to the idea. While Howay likes the freedom from his mother's prissy manners, the gansters are not quite sure what to make of him. He passes a crucial test when working as a witer he drops a plate of chicken. He quickly retrieves it, wipes it on his apron and serves it. The gangsters all agree that this passes the test. Howay becomes very attached to the gang, especially the leader--Poison Eddie. There is an elaborate scene where Poison Eddie, Howay, the gang, and Mrs. Larue rob the Larue mansion.
Meanwhile Mrs. McThing substitutes a little prig for the real Howay and his mother is at first delighted by his beautiful manners and perfect behavior. (Brandon de Wilde plays both the good and bad Howay.) His mother soon begins to suspect that something is amiss--the reformed Howay is just TOO good! That is saying a great deal for Mrs. Larue. Then Howay calls her from of all places, the poolhall. But that is just the beginning. We actually begin to fell sorry for the haughty Mrs. Larue when Mrs. McThing or changes her into of all things--a scrub woman. Her daughter gets into the act with some of the spells as well. Not only that but Mrs. Larue then helps rob her own mansion and adopts Mrs. McThing's daughter so Howay can have a playmate. Finally the long-suffering Mrs. Larue is allowed to revert back to her former self, but is now a form believer in allowing boys to be boys.
Howay appears in two different costumes depending on whether it is the good or bad Howay. I'm not sure just what details on clothing Chase wrote into the play. All I can go on are the costumes actually worn in the Broadway production.
Howay wears a beret, Eton collar, floppy bow, a smock-like jacket, short trousers with kneepants' button hem, and black kneesocks. He appears to be wearing polished lace up shoes, although the inmage I have is not very clear so I am not sure about this. I've never see a boy precisely like this with this combination, but the indivisual garments certainly were ones boys wore. Presumably this costume represented the designer's imagination as to what a rich spoiled boy might wear.
Figure 3.--Howay makes froends with Poison Eddie and gets a pin-striped suit just like his new idol.
Once out of his mother's strict supervision, Howay quickly changes duds. Soon he is dressing like his idol, Poison Eddie. He has a bowler hat and a pen-striped suit with big baggy trousers. He also seems to wear sneakers for some reason. In at least some scenes, he wears his gangster pin-striped suit with just a "T"-shirt. Other times he wears a plaid shirt with it. As a waiter, he wears a big white apron--perfect for wiping off anything that falls on the floor. Actually bowler hats were worn by boys after they got their first adult-styled suit at the turn century. This could mea boys as young as 12 or even younger. Of course by 1952 the bowler was seen as totally inappropriate for boys.
Mrs. McThing's daughter, I'm not sure about her name, wears a very plain smock-like dress. Certainly looking the part of a street urchin.
While never made into a movie. HBC has noted at least ne major revival of the play. It is also often produced in local theater as well as a popular choice for school productions. Interestingly, in these various productions, the thing that changes the most is Howay's costumes. It varies from Little Lord Faubtleroy outfits to short pants suits. Short pants suits without fancy additiions are normally the costume chose for Howay in local theater, in part because this is the cheapest to produce. At any rate, in virtually every production, only the bad Howay is allowed to wear long trousers.
HBC has noted several television, movie, and other media in America during the 1950s and 60s that addressed the issue of boys wearing short pants suits. Interestingly, boys did appear on American television wearing short pants during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Mrs. McThing was one of many theatrical pieces, there were many more on television and in the movies, that portray a boy in short pants and other fancy outfits as a spoiled brat while depicting "real boys" wearing long trousers or rough clothes. We note this phenomenon particularly prevalent in the 1950s and continuing into the 1970s.
Figure 4.--Mrs. Mc Thing's little girl utters a spell and the fake Mrs. LaRue who her mother had created, while the real Mrs. Larue scrubs floors, vanishes from sight.
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