The Late Christopher Bean


The Late Christopher Bean

The Late Christopher Bean is a comedy/drama by Sidney Howard, and was first published in 1932 under the title "Muse of All Work." It was first performed at the Ford's Opera House in Baltimore on October 24, 1932. It would open a week later on Halloween at the Henry Miller's Theatre in New York. It was produced by Gilbert Miller.

Original Cast

* Dr. Haggett-Walter Connolly
* Susan Haggett-Adelaide Bean
* Abby-Pauline Lord
* Mrs. Haggett-Beulah Bondi
* Ada Haggett-Katherine Hirsch
* Warren Creamer-William Lawson
* Tallant-George Coulouris
* Rosen-Clarence Derwent
* Davenport-Ernest Lawford

Characters

Characters on Stage

*Dr. Milton Haggett-Dr. Haggett is the first character we meet, and at the play's opening, he is a humble doctor living in the countryside of Boston trying to collect his patients' bills and support his family. He is fifty years old and knows nothing of greed, although the events of the play quickly change his perspective on money.

*Susan Haggett-The younger daughter of Dr. Haggett, Susan has genuine affection for the maid Abby and wants nothing to do with the art deals that ensue following Tallant's first visit to the house. She is in love with the local paper hanger, Warren Creamer, and wishes to elope with him. A pretty girl of nineteen, she is often overshadowed by her older sister Ada in the eyes of her parents.

*Abby Bean-Abby is the maid of the Haggett household, and although very compassionate and caring for the family, she soon finds herself pitted against their greed for money. Her connection with Susan is eclipsed only by her love for the title character, whom she married shortly before his death.

*Mrs. Hannah Haggett-The strong-willed wife of Dr. Haggett, Mrs. Haggett would love nothing more than to leave the village they live in for places she considers more dignified. She is the same age as her husband, but their opinions on many matters differ. Unlike Dr. Haggett, she is greedy by nature, and is quick to indulge in the business dealings of the three art critics.

*Ada Haggett-At twenty-six years of age, Ada is the elder Haggett daughter, and is fairly spoiled. Preferring the "cutesy-pie" act to the mature disposition of her younger sister, Ada fosters a secret crush on Warren Creamer, but is quickly put off by his obvious affection for Susan. Like her mother, her greed is considerably more powerful than Dr. Haggett's, but unlike her mother, she has the cunning to put it to good use.

*Warren Creamer-Warren is the village paper hanger and painter. He has painted the house and fences of the Haggett family for many years, but he secretly aspires to be a professional painter like his former mentor, Christopher Bean. He confesses this ambition and his love to Susan Haggett, asking her to elope with him. Though respected by Dr. Haggett and later Davenport, Warren is generally unwelcome in the Haggett home following his kiss with Susan, which upsets Mrs. Haggett and Ada.

*Tallant-Tallant is the first art critic to arrive at Dr. Haggett's house, and he is certainly the most evil of the three. Greedy and self-centered, he follows the tradition of Corot and Cezanne works, forging paintings of painters after their deaths. Rather than pay Dr. Haggett for Chris Bean's works, he instead persuades him to give them away. Cunning and ruthless, he is talented even in recovering from errors he makes in his swindling.

*Rosen-Like Tallant, Rosen is a greedy art critic, but he differs from his rival in several ways. Unlike Tallant, he prefers to make his money by offering an inordinately low price to unsuspecting people owning valuable paintings, then sells the paintings for a higher price. He also does not presume to manipulate his "victims"; he is very simple in his strategy of swindling, but is terrible at covering his tracks.

*Maxwell Davenport-The true art critic of the three, Davenport in fact has no interest in possessing the paintings or indeed selling them. He is more concerned that the paintings be preserved and be given the appropriate reverence, and comes to Dr. Haggett's house in the hopes of writing a detailed biography on Chris Bean. He is sympathetic to Abby's plight, and is desperate to place proper prices on Bean's works and ensure that they reach the right hands.

Characters Mentioned

*Christopher Bean-Chris Bean is the famous artist who resided with the Haggett family for the last years of his life. Poor and suffering from a drinking problem, Chris was given the Haggetts' red barn to live in, in which he painted pictures of the scenery surrounding him. Taken particularly with Abby, he eventually fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. Shortly thereafter, he died of tuberculosis. At the time of his death, his work is considered to be abysmal, but ten years later (when this play takes place), he is revered as a master of art.

*Bert Davis-Davis is Chris Bean's dear friend. While living with the Haggetts, Bean wrote numerous letters to Davis, describing his life in their little village and describing his love for Abby and all the things she did for him. Abby reveals to us in the course of the play that Davis was notorious for skipping his rent, and got into the same sort of trouble as his friend. As revealed by Davenport, Davis is also dead by the time the art critics visit the Haggett household.

*Mrs. Jordan-A patient of Dr. Haggett's, Mrs. Jordan gives birth to a child on the morning that the play begins. Her son is eight pounds heavy, and is the reason that Dr. Haggett returns home exhausted at the beginning of the play.

*Schmidt-Schmidt is an acquaintance of Rosen's, apparently in the same kind of business as Rosen and Tallant. It is likely that Schmidt is one of the "scavengers" mentioned by Davenport.

*Goldstein-Goldstein is another acquaintance of Rosen's, and like Schmidt is probably involved in the swindling that Rosen and Tallant are famous for. He is also probably one of the "scavengers" to whom Davenport refers.

*The New Maid-Abby's successor when Abby leaves, this unnamed character is from Boston and apparently has social graces that make her superior to Abby in Mrs. Haggett's eyes.

*Abby's Brother and his children-Abby's brother, a widower, and his children. Abby decides to leave the Haggetts in order to help her family out, moving to Chicago to be nearer to them.

Plot

Act 1

The story opens on a Thursday morning in a small village outside of Boston. Dr. Haggett arrives home after delivering a baby and has his breakfast. He is reminded by his daughter Susie that that day is the last day that their maid, Abby, will be working for them before going to Chicago to help her deceased brother's children. He then receives a telegram that an "admirer of the late Christopher Bean" will visit him that day at noon, signed by an art critic from New York named Maxwell Davenport. Putting it out of his mind, he is forced to cope with the petty quarrels of his family, namely the want of older daughter Ada and Mrs. Haggett to visit Florida, which seems unlikely thanks to their dwindling finances. The morning is interrupted when the village paper hander Warren Creamer visits, showing off his recently completed paintings and offering to paint Susie and Ada. Meanwhile, Dr. Haggett goes upstairs to shave, followed shortly by Mrs. Haggett and Ada being forced to go to the kitchen to greet the new maid from Boston. While the family is out, Warren proclaims his love for Susie and asks her to elope with him, but is caught kissing her by Ada. Outraged, Ada calls the rest of the family back in, evoking a tidal wave of fury from Mrs. Haggett, who hastily throws Warren out of the house. Dr. Haggett comforts Susie while Ada and his wife storm off, and finds himself rather unable to offer a solution to Susie's need to decide between staying and running off. He soon leads Susan upstairs so he can make his calls and so she can relax.

Meanwhile, Tallant arrives at the house and is let in by Abby. His treatment of her appears friendly enough, but his sarcastic comments rub her the wrong way. Dr. Haggett then comes downstairs, and Tallant begins to explain that he has come to pay the debt of his friend, Chris Bean. Mistaking Tallant for Davenport, he shows Tallant the telegram he received that morning, which gives Tallant the idea to pose as Davenport. Tallant then pretends that Bean's work is trash, as the Haggetts previously believed, but requests to take the paintings away as "souvenirs." Dr. Haggett readily agrees, and gives Tallant two paintings that are in questionable condition. He also asks Abby to examine the attic for any other paintings, explaining to her that Tallant is Davenport, a friend of Bean's. This statement strikes her as suspicious, but she reluctantly agrees to search. She returns empty-handed, so Tallant decides to leave with what he has, mentioning briefly that he and Dr. Haggett might go into business together. Dr. Haggett becomes very excited by the small debt that Tallant paid him and the prospective business, but Abby warns him to keep an eye on Tallant, whose vast amount of knowledge she finds disturbing.

Act 2

Realizing his need to fool Abby as well lest she blow his cover, Tallant quickly returns to the Haggett home in the hopes of having a private conversation with her. She confronts him about his claim to be a friend of Chris Bean's, stating that the only friend Bean ever mentioned was Bert Davis. Thinking quickly, Tallant says that he is indeed Davis, using Davenport as a professional name. Abby then lightens up, and expresses the close relationship she shared with Chris and the things about art that he taught her. Pretending to be sympathetic, Tallant gently coaxes her into revealing that she still possesses a life-size portrait of herself, painted by Chris and whose existence is unknown to the world at large. He asks that she visit him that night at the hotel he's staying at and that she bring the portrait. She shoos him away, afraid the Haggetts will find them talking, and promises to contemplate his offer to buy the portrait from her. Susie then rushes in and confesses her dilemma to Abby, followed shortly by the arrival of Warren. The three conspire to leave that night after dinner, Abby going to Chicago and Susie and Warren eloping. Warren says that they must meet at four-thirty that day in order to catch Abby's five o'clock train, then leaves.

Warren's departure is followed almost immediately by the arrival of Rosen, who like Tallant, succeeds in making Abby uncomfortable with his knowledge of her and the household. He greets Dr. Haggett by insisting on paying Chris Bean's debts, and asking if he could buy all of Bean's paintings for $1000. Stunned, Dr. Haggett admits that he gave the paintings away to Davenport. Rosen is dissatisfied with this story, knowing Davenport to be more honest than to take any painting without paying the proper price. They go into the doctor's office to discuss this problem, while the real Davenport arrives right on time at noon. He too knows a lot about Abby, who has now reached a breaking point in light of all the suspicious visitors of that day. Davenport quickly introduces himself to Dr. Haggett, who has now returned with Rosen. Rosen confirms that this is indeed the real Davenport, which frightens Dr. Haggett, who has no idea now who the first man was. Davenport explains that he is there to collect information on Bean for a biography. He explains that Bean is a revered artist in New York and that his letters have been published the latest issue of the "Atlantic Monthly." Dr. Haggett, finally realizing the meaning of the day's prior events, confesses that a third man simply took the paintings of which he knew. Stressed considerably now, he requests that Davenport and Rosen return later.

As Abby prepares lunch for the Haggetts, he learns from his wife that she burned the other paintings left there by Christopher Bean. They also recall the portrait of Abby in her room and conspire on how to steal it, but to their dismay fail. Dr. Haggett's anger and stress are excerbated by numerous phone calls from New York requesting that he sell the Christopher Beans that he has. A confused Abby finally serves the distraught family their lunch.

Act 3

Act 3 opens with Davenport returning and Dr. Haggett having left to investigate the whereabouts of Tallant. Susie explains to Davenport her plans to elope and asks his opinion of Warren's paintings, afraid that if she marries him, they will run into financial trouble. She then offers to show Davenport around the village and give him details on Bean's life there. Dr. Haggett finally returns, having learned Tallant's name and that he's placed the stolen paintings in a bank vault.

Desperate, he, Mrs. Haggett, and Ada try to persuade Abby to sell them her portrait. She brings it into the living room, but still refuses to part with it. Tallant finally returns to talk to Abby, who quickly brushes him off and goes upstairs to pack. Dr. Haggett now confronts Tallant, who requests that Mrs. Haggett and Ada leave them alone. Tallant explains that the business he had in mind was the forgery of paintings by dead artists, and reveals that he himself is an accomplished painter who simply signs his paintings with the name of a famous dead artist. Dr. Haggett agrees to join Tallant's scheme, but Rosen then arrives looking to purchase real Christopher Bean works. Ditching Tallant, Dr. Haggett single-handedly haggles with Rosen and sells him Abby's portrait. Meanwhile, Davenport returns to verify the authenticity of Abby's portrait and to try and deter Rosen from scamming the Haggetts. Warren arrives to help Abby pack, but Abby is distracted by the apparent sale of her painting, which Dr. Haggett forced her to sell to him. Her strong protests make him feel ashamed, but when she reveals that she saved the paintings that Mrs. Haggett claimed to have burned, he demands that she show them to him. Tallant, realizing his scheme to forge Chris Beans is now at an end, quickly leaves. Rosen and Davenport assess the paintings, while Abby miserably tries to say goodbye. Susie and Warren take her things out to Warren's truck, and Abby turns to go. Davenport catches her and begs her to consider donating her portrait to an art museum, where it'll be safe and near her so she can visit it. She confesses to him that she married Christopher Bean, which quickly ends Dr. Haggett's and Rosen's business dealings. Rosen, realizing that the portraits are rightfully hers and thus impossible to purchase (considering her attachment to them), gives up. Dr. Haggett, realizing that Abby now has legal claim to the paintings and her portrait, gives them to her and sits miserably in his chair, with Mrs. Haggett and Ada mourning their lost chance at fame and Davenport smiling widely at Abby's triumph.

Paintings

Over the course of the play, numerous of Christopher Bean's works are mentioned, as are some of Warren Creamer's, Ada's, and Tallant's. Here follows a list of the mentioned paintings:

Christopher Bean's Paintings

* "The Hill Pasture"-a hill pasture apparently well known in the village
* "The Red Barn"-the barn in which he painted all his famous works
* "The Brick Houses"-brick houses in the vicinity of the Haggett house
* "The Covered Bridge"-a covered bridge in the village or just outside it
* "Abby"-a life-size portrait of his wife Abby, who is also the maid of the Haggett household.

Warren Creamer's Paintings and Drawings

* "Dead Fish"-a still life of a salmon that Warren catches several days before the Thursday that Tallant visits.
* "Dead Duck"-a still life of a dead duck.
* "Susie and Ada"-an unfinished sketch of Ada and Susie, which is torn apart by an enraged Mrs. Haggett.

Ada's Paintings

* "Buttercups"-an amateur painting of what appear to be buttercups, done by Ada after a few art lessons.

Tallant's Paintings

* "The Hill Pasture"- a rendering of the original Bean painting from a description in his letters to Davis. Forged by Tallant.


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