The Great Divide

   William Vaughn Moody's three-act drama opened at the Princess Theatre on 3 October 1906 for 238 performances, winning acclaim as one of the greatest plays of its time, due in part to its realism and the complexity of its human drama, as well as its more sensational aspects. Originally titled The Sabine Woman, the play premiered in Chicago, starring Margaret Anglin. Moody revised it for the New York production, also starring Anglin with Henry Miller. Ruth Jordan, who has moved to Arizona to escape the stifling conventions of her New England hometown and to assist in one of her brother's business ventures, is not afraid when left alone at the cabin one night, for she is attuned to the "sublime abstraction" of the American West. Three men come to rape her, but she appeals to one of them, Stephen Ghent, to buy off his compatriots and in return she will marry him. Ghent is successful in business and treats her well, but Ruth cannot forgive his original intentions and, earning enough money on her own, she returns to her puritanical New England family. Ghent secretly follows her. Ruth learns that he has saved her brother's business. She defies her upbringing to return with Ghent across the great divide of the United States and their vast cultural differences. Moody claimed that the play was based on a true incident. The original production toured the United States and Europe with its stars, generating considerable publicity. Hailed as the greatest American play to date for its depiction of the division between shifting urban civilization and the wild, untamed passions of the West, The Great Divide was revived on Broadway for a brief run in 1917 and made into three motion pictures (1915, 1925, 1929).
   See also Frontier drama.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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