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Merely Mary Ann

April 27, 2007

A while back I read a novella called Merely Mary Ann, by Isreal Zangwill. Apparently Zangwill was an important Zionist. He was also the person who popularized the use of the phrase “melting pot” to describe New York. He also had a pretty weird sense of humor.

Merely Mary Ann is about a young composer called Launcelot who lives in a cheap boarding house and becomes infatuated with the housemaid. Mary Ann is sort of pretty, but not that bright. Launcelot likes to look at her — although her housework-hardened hands disgust him so much that he makes her a gift of gloves — but not to listen to her. He’s one of those refined gentleman types, and Mary Ann soon falls in love with him. The two of them decide that he’ll rent a little house somewhere and she’ll be his mistress and housekeeper, but the day before they’re going to leave the boarding house together, Mary Ann inherits half a million pounds from her brother in America, and Launcelot has to end the affair.

In 1931, the story was made into a romantic comedy starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. I figure the “romantic” part means they changed the end of the story, and the “comedy” part means they changed most of the middle.

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