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1001 Stories Collection

Anything Goes

1001 Anything Goes
Added on 08th August 2020

Music and lyrics Cole Porter
Book PG Wodehouse and Guy Bolton
First performance 1934, Alvin Theatre, New York

A madcap musical which captures the spirit of the 1930s.

Story

The story is set on board the SS American, which is sailing to London from New York. Hope Harcourt is a rich heiress. She is sailing to London with her fiancé, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Billy Crocker is a Wall Street stockbroker and, desperate to win the heart of Hope, manages to become a stowaway on the ship so that he can follow her. He is mistaken for Snake-Eyes Johnson, a gangster. With the help of his singing friend, Reno Sweeney, and another gangster, Moonface Martin, he manages to win Hope’s heart. After lots of confusions and obstacles along the way, he and Hope marry.

Why we chose it

The madcap plot and breezy songs of Anything Goes capture the zeitgeist of the 1930s, in which there was a call for upbeat, comic entertainment that would help people momentarily escape from the trauma of the Great Depression era.

Cole Porter was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage in the 1930s. His songs are characterised by witty lyrics and instantly recognisable and original tunes.

Where it came from

Alongside the worldwide economic trouble, people with fewer money worries were enjoying cruises across the oceans. Anything Goes reflected this new fashion.

Originally, the story of Anything Goes included a shipwreck. However, two months before Anything Goes was due to open, the real ship SS Morro Castle sank off the New Jersey coast, causing the death of 138 passengers. The script was revised so that the ship stayed afloat and whole atmosphere became much more lighthearted, concentrating on the antics of Billy Crocker and his crew.

Where it went next

The show was an immediate success. It ran for 420 performances in Broadway, one of the longest runs of any musical of the 1930s. A film version was released 1936, starring Bing Crosby as Billy. A second film version followed in 1956 which again starred Bing Crosby as Billy, with an altered script and new songs added in. There were also revivals in 1962, 1989 and 2011, and the musical remains popular.

Associated stories

Jerome Kern’s Show Boat, first performed in 1927, is also set on an ocean liner, reflecting the new love of ocean travel of that age.

Cole Porter wrote many other shows in the 1930s. All have light-hearted, upbeat plots, catchy tunes, glitzy, attention-seeking characters. The stories often reflect Western life of the time. These included The New Yorkers (1930), which satirised New York prohibition underworld; Gay Divorce (1932), about an American writer travelling to England;, Jubilee (1935), about a fictional royal family inspired by the recent silver jubilee of King George V, and Red, Hot and Blue (1936), about the exploits of a wealthy young widow named Nails.

Added on 08th August 2020

Music and lyrics Cole Porter
Book PG Wodehouse and Guy Bolton
First performance 1934, Alvin Theatre, New York