Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Trap for a Lonely Man

One of the stand-out memories of my teenage theatre-going was a trip to Chester’s Gateway Theatre to see a production of a play called Trap for a Lonely Man, involving a chap whose wife disappears and is replaced by a stranger. It proved to be an excellent thriller, with a classic final twist. Fast forward to the present, and I’ve tried to find out more about the play. It seems that it is something of a staple of provincial theatre even now, and it was written by a Frenchman, Robert Thomas.

A little more digging revealed that the play has been adapted into no fewer than four films. I haven’t seen any of them, although I’ve put in an order for Chase a Crooked Shadow, a version starring the young Richard Todd, who died recently. It also seems that Hitchcock planned to film the play, and I can well imagine that the premise would appeal to him, although he was evidently beaten to it.

The story-line is strongly reminiscent of the work of those French masters Boileau and Narcejac. I’ve mentioned before that group of writers, including Montheilhet, Arley and Valmain, who followed in the footsteps of Boileau and Narcejac, and this notable play suggests that Robert Thomas should be added to the list.

But who was Robert Thomas and what else did he write? So far, I’ve not come up with any detailed information about him, but surely he wasn’t just a one-hit wonder?


Philip Amos said...

He's certainly a bit of a mystery man, Martin, but he did also write a play entitled Ding Dong Dead, and the film 8 Femmes was based on another (and different?) play of his. There is not a generosity of information.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

A mystery man!

I'm not familiar with the play. I love twist endings so I'll have to get my hands on a film.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Martin Edwards said...

Philip, thanks for this extra info. I see that 8 Women is quite a significant film, which must be worth a look. Ding Dong Dead is totally unknown to me.
Elizabeth, the plot of Trap is excellent.

Philip Amos said...

Martin, Ding Dong Dead is published by Samuel French, a NY specialist in matters theatrical, and, though I doubt it's a worthwhile exercise, a part of it may be read on Google Book Search, in English and described as "Adapted by Mawby Green and Ed Feilbert from a Comedy of Suspense by Robert Thomas".

As we speak of plays, it was interesting to read this morning that Agatha Christie may have a considerable success under way with a non-crime play entitled A Daughter's a Daughter, produced once before in 1956 when it had a very short run. The Times reviewer, for what it's worth, calls it "a rattling good play" and it does sound interesting. And surprising, given the author -- not what one would expect at all. And, ahem, Honeysuckle Weeks is in it.

Martin Edwards said...

Philip - as ever, very interesting info. I must find more about Thomas!

Bob Cornwell said...

Claude Mesplède’s Dictionnaire to the rescue. I was at pains to emphasise last time the book’s international scope, but it is superb on the French scene, as you might expect.
Born in 1930 died 1989, Robert Thomas started as a young actor in films and on the stage. Piège pour un homme seul (Trap for a Lonely Man) appears to be his third play, which as you observe earned him international attention. In France, unusually for a theatre piece, it won the 1961 Prix du Quai des Orfèvres, the second oldest crime fiction prize in the world.
Eight Women, was, in fact, his first produced play, presented in Nice in 1958, though the version of it, adapted and directed by François Ozon in 2002, was rewritten by Thomas in 1960. He wrote other crime dramas too, also adapting Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest. The Dictionnaire lists seven titles as amongst his most important work. He also worked in both films and television, ending his career as the director of the Theatre Edouard VII in Paris over the period 1970-1989.
How’s your French, Martin? I’ll put a copy of the entry in the post...

Martin Edwards said...

Bob, I would love to see that! My French is rusty but my daughter is quite a linguist, so she can probably help me with the tricky bits! Thanks for this. Mespiede's book sounds great.

Yuri G. said...

"Chase a Crooked Shadow" is not based on this Thomas play.