Love Goes To Press is a sharp-tongued comedy about women war correspondents that had them rolling in the aisles in London in 1946. The play paints a delicious portrait of two smart, funny, brave, ambitious and complex women—working just miles from the front lines (as Cowles and Gellhorn did), surrounded by less competent, less adventurous men.
Martha Gellhorn was a trailblazing journalist, filing dispatches over the course of five decades from some of the most dramatic hot spots across the globe. Her career as a war correspondent began in 1937 when she reported on the Spanish Civil War for Colliers magazine. She was a resident of the famed Hotel Florida in Madrid, along with many other foreign correspondents, including Virginia Cowles—and Ernest Hemingway with whom she was having an affair. They married in 1940-and divorced in 1945. The HBO film Hemingway and Gellhorn directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman will premiere on May 28th, 2012.
In 1946, Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles decided on a lark to write a comedy about two female war correspondents covering WWII. Their comedy, Love Goes to Press, is a frothy concoction, a romantic comedy set in a press camp in Italy in 1944. The cast of characters includes a tough American newspaperman, recently divorced from one of the heroines: “You can’t tell from the outside that he’s got the character of a cobra,” the Gellhorn character says of her ex “From the outside he’s a beautiful, funny, fascinating man.”
Love Goes To Press premiered to great success in June 1946 at the Embassy Theatre in London, where Cowles and Gellhorn, though American, were then living. “At times the humor rises to brilliance,” observed The Stage. “The kind of comedy which lavishly mingles public relations, private lives, lines of communication, tough dames, and tender passages,” opined The Observer. The play quickly transferred from the “fringe” to a healthy run in the West End.
Given its glowing reception in London, success in America seemed assured. Try-outs in Washington and Pittsburgh in December 1946 were greeted positively, but on the Great White Way, everything changed. Love Goes To Press lasted just four days. Its very strengths — particularly its comedy — were the very reasons it was dismissed. New Yorkers were not yet ready to laugh about the war. When the play was finally published, in 1995, Gellhorn wrote an introduction: “I must advise you at once, that this play bears no resemblance whatever, of any kind at all, to war or war correspondents. It is a joke. It was intended to make people laugh.”
A distinct current of sexism pervaded some of the reviews. Wolcott Gibbs sneered in The New Yorker: “It is quite possible that Miss Gellhorn and Miss Cowles were indeed able to commandeer ambulances and even airplanes to take them behind enemy lines practically at will, I can only say it seemed a little silly to me.” Ironically, Gellhorn and Cowles had done precisely that—driven ambulances, flown in combat missions, and in Gellhorn’s case, stowed away in a hospital ship on D-Day—all in a day’s work.
Love Goes To Press faded from memory until 1995 when Professor Sandra Spanier of Penn State University rescued the play from the ash-heap and arranged for its long overdue publication with Gellhorn’s blessing. Spanier is the General Editor of the Cambridge Edition of the Letters of Ernest Hemingway, projected to run to a dozen volumes, at minimum.
“The Mint does for forgotten drama what the Encores! series does for musicals, on far more modest means” (The New York Times). The Mint was awarded an OBIE for “combining the excitement of discovery with the richness of tradition,” and a special Drama Desk Award for “unearthing, presenting and preserving forgotten plays of merit.” Ben Brantley, in The New York Times Arts & Leisure (August 21st, 2011) hailed the Mint as the “resurrectionist extraordinaire of forgotten plays.” It is currently a Drama Desk nominee for Outstanding Revival for its recent production, A Little Journey.
Performances will be Tuesday through Thursday at 7 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets are $55, with some half-price tickets (CheapTix) available for every performance. All performances will take place on the Third Floor of 311 West 43rd Street.