Robert Service at the Stratford, Ontario Shakespeare Festival
One of the great virtues of Ricochet is that, with some frequency, contributors actually learn something from reading the comments made by members on what they have written. Yesterday, for example, when I posted a piece entitled A Movie Script for Rob Long, suggesting the he take Robert Service’s poem “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and make a full-length movie feature script of it, I remarked that, to the best of my knowledge, this had never been done. Almost immediately, a member drew my attention to a silent film made in 1915 and to another film of a similar sort made in 1924. Here is the plot summary for the latter:
A dancer known as Lou Lorraine feels her life is going nowhere. She is married to Jim, who is working as a pianist at the same cabaret in a small village Lou is working at. One day, a man nicknamed "Dangerous Dan" McGrew promises to make a big star on Broadway out of her, after which she immediately leaves with him. She swears on staying faithful to her husband, promising to earn money to have Jim and her son sent to New York. Jim, however, does not trust Dan and follows them to New York, where everything goes out of hand.
Others chimed in to let me know that Service’s story was set in the Yukon in Canada and not in Alaska as I presumed (I was given The Best of Robert Service by a friend on a visit I made to Alaska and took it for granted that Service had lived there).
Sometimes also, after posting a piece, I learn something from another source. The last couple of years my wife and I have taken our family to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario (ca. four hours from Hillsdale). And last night my eight-year-old daughter (a fearsome creature who was recently awarded a black belt in Tae Kwan Do) stumbled into my office with the program for the 60th season at Stratford, and lo and behold the Tom Patterson Theatre there will be putting on a musical entitled Wanderlust inspired by the life and poems of Robert Service. Based on a book by Morris Panych with music by Marek Norman (both of whom are involved in directing the production), it tells the story of a bank clerk and aspiring poet named Robert Service who, “as he moils away at his ledgers, . . dreams of romance and escape to a new life of adventure in the gold rush of the Great North.” Alas, we are told, “the object of his affection, his pretty co-worker Louise, is already engaged – and her fiancé has the makings of a dangerous man.”
This could be fun, but, like the plot of the 1924 film, it reads like a parody of the original. I still think that someone should produce a talkie and tell the story straight. And who better than Ricochet’s Rob Long?