Merry Partners:
The Age and Stage of
Harrigan & Hart

E.J. Kahn, Jr. / 1955

Random House; 1st edition / ISBN 1199463485

Reading this book will make you long for the good old days of the "Mulligan Guards".

I'm copying the dust jacket notes (as Amazon did) because they give all the important information
on this legendary pair much better than I could:

    "In the late 1800's the idols of vaudeville and the theatre were Edward (Ned) Harrigan and Tony Hart.
     A native of New York, Harrigan was a prolific writer, actor, singer, director, producer and
     entrepreneur - the head of a theatre company described as 'the jolliest lot of local trash
     that ever held the boards.' Hart, a product of the reform schools of Worcester, Mass.,
     became Harrigan's partner and played both masculine and feminine roles; he 'caused more joy
     and sunshine by his delightful gifts than any artist of his time.'

     These, then, are the 'merry partners' of Mr. Kahn's witty and nostalgic excursion into the
     Broadway of yesteryear. They flourished as an enormously successful musical-comedy team from
     1871 through 1885, amidst scenes of tumult, consternation and rowdyism that the theatre has
     not seen before and may never see again. Theirs was the gaudy era of pseudo-military target
     companies and spirited Sunday picnics, of violent political satire and appreciative newsboys
     in the balcony, of Harrigan's fictional 'Mulligan's Alley' and the glamorous new Theatre Comique.

     It was a time of high living, and the devil-may-care antics of Harrigan and Hart -
     recounted in full for the first time in this sparkling book - will revive many happy
     memories of an almost-forgotten way of life." (Includes 37 photographs.)

If this book were being written today, instead of the very staid mid-1950s, I'm sure more attention would have been
called to the fact that Hart -- excelling as he did in feminine or "drag" roles -- had escaped a brutal reform
school at the age of fifteen. (I was surprised that the author was as candid about Hart's death from syphilis as
he was.) Surely the surface innocence of the Gay '90s hid more than "spirited Sunday picnics".

When the partnership of Harrigan and Hart was dissolved, the author says it is compared to "a pair of scissors burst
asunder." Their fans are as broken-hearted as boys whose favorite team has just lost the World Series, and I don't
think Broadway was ever the same.

dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.4 in / weight: 2 lb / volume: 302 pages

Return to Book Page