Saturday, September 12, 2020

We Didn't Start the Fire: Peter Pan


Continuing a brief look at the events and persons listed in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. 

Each two lines represent a year. 

1955: 

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev 
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc 
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, dacron 
Dien Bien Phu falls, "Rock Around the Clock" 
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team. 
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland 
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev 
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez 

Peter Pan: 

Some facts about Peter Pan: 

J M Barrie’s Peter Pan first appeared in a 1902 novel for adults, The Little White Bird. However, it was the stage play Barrie produced two years later which brought the character to a wider audience, and Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was a huge hit in theatres in 1904. Barrie later adapted and expanded the play's storyline as a novel, published in 1911 as Peter and Wendy. 

Illustration of Peter Pan playing the pipes, by F. D. Bedford from Peter and Wendy (1911) 

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’ wasn’t Barrie’s first choice of subtitle for the book: among the others he considered was ‘The Boy Who Hated Mothers’, but his publisher disliked this suggestion. 

All royalties from productions of the play go towards helping children at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, after Barrie gave them the rights in 1929. As a result, Disney had to negotiate the rights for its Peter Pan films with that hospital. 

The girls’ name Wendy was popularised – but not invented – by Barrie. Although it became far more popular after Barrie used it for the character Wendy Darling in Peter Pan, the name Wendy had been used as a girls’ name since the nineteenth century (as a pet form of Gwendolyn) and there is even some evidence that, before Barrie popularised it as a female given name, it was used as a boys’ name. 

The name of the place where Peter Pan lives, and to which he takes Wendy and the Lost Children – Neverland - wasn’t coined by Barrie. didn’t come up with ‘Neverland’ either. The word’s first use is credited to a Sydney newspaper in 1892, the Never-Never Land being an Australian term dating from 1884 for an imaginary, illusory or Utopian place, 

Peter Pan was named after Peter Llewellyn Davies, Barrie’s adopted son. Llewellyn Davies would grow up (unlike the literary creation he inspired) to be a publisher and was the man who published P. L. Travers’ book Mary Poppins, the novel that inspired the hugely popular film musical. Llewellyn Davies’ adult life was plagued by depression and he took his life in 1960 by throwing himself in front of a train at Sloane Square tube station in London. 

The inspiration for Peter Pan was Barrie’s older brother, David, who died in an ice-skating accident the day before his 14th birthday. His mother and brother thought of him as forever a boy. 

Relevance to 1955: 

On March 7, 1955, NBC presented Peter Pan live as part of Producers' Showcase (with nearly all of the smash Broadway show's original cast) as the first full-length Broadway production on colour TV. The show attracted a then-record audience of 65-million viewers, the highest ever up to that time for a single television program. It was so well received that the musical was restaged live for television (again on Producers' Showcase) on January 9, 1956. 

By the way: 

A link to the present – 


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