Wait Until Dark Wednesday: A Look Back

Broadway 1The opening of Wait Until Dark is fast approaching and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we’ll be doing a short series called “Wait Until Dark” every Wednesday through Nov. 5.

Before fans feast their eyes on the upcoming thriller, it’s important to take a look back at the long history of this legendary production.

Robert L. Neblett, an American theatre scholar, has prepared an educational study guide to accompany students for special student matinee performances of Wait Until Dark, which includes a historical rundown:

Knott Dial M for Murder

Frederick Knott and Grace Kelly on the Set of Dial M for Murder

Playing off the enormous success of Dial M for Murder, his 1952 television play that was later turned into a London and Broadway hit, then a blockbuster film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Frederick Knott wrote the stage version of Wait Until Dark in 1966.

Broadway 2

Robert Duvall as Roat terrorizes Lee Remick as Susy
in the 1966 Broadway production

The Broadway premiere of the thriller starred Lee Remick (Anatomy of a Murder, Days of Wine and Roses, The Omen) as Susy and Robert Duvall (The Godfather, The Apostle, Tender Mercies) as Roat. Remick was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance, for which she studied with the Lighthouse Foundation for the Blind to prepare for the role.

The play received overwhelmingly positive reviews and it ran for 374 performances.

In 1967, a film adaptation of the play starring Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, My Fair Lady, Funny Face) as Susy, Alan Arkin (Catch-22, Glengarry Glen Ross, Little Miss Sunshine, Argo) as Roat, Richard Crenna (Rambo series, The Real McCoys) as Mike, and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (77 Sunset Strip, Maverick) as Sam. The film also featured a chilling score by Harry Mancini. It was one of the most popular films of the year.

As the screen is plunged into darkness, movie theatres dimmed and turned off their auditorium lights until the audience was in complete darkness during the film’s climactic scene.

Hepburn Match

Audrey Hepburn as Susy in the 1967 film

Hepburn earned an Academy Award nomination and she and Zimbalist were nominated for Golden Globes for their performances. It is rumored that Julie Andrews, George C. Scott, and Robert Redford were at one point considered for the roles of Susy, Roat, and Mike, respectively.

Bravo lists the climax of the film as No. 10 on its list of 100 Scariest Moments. The American Film Institute ranks the film as No. 55 out 100 best thrillers for the screen.

Tarantino Roat 1998

Quentin Tarantino as Roat in the 1998 New York revival of the play

In 1998, a New York revival starring Marisa Tomei as Susy and independent filmmaker Quentin Tarantino as Roat opened to mixed reviews, largely due to Tarantino’s “wooden” performance.

In 2013, a new stage adaptation of Knott’s play by Jeffery Hatcher opened at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, starring Alison Pill (The Book of Daniel, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Newsroom) as Susy. The adaptation transfers the action of the play from the 1960s to the 1940s and capitalizes on a film noir sensibility. It also replaces the heroin sewn into the doll with valuable diamonds, eliminating the theme of drug trafficking. This version of the play will open in New York in late October 2014.

See The Rep’s production of Wait Until Dark live onstage, starting Oct. 24 and running through Nov. 9. Purchase online here and get more information about the show–including special events– here.

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