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Theatre / The Moon is Blue

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The Moon is Blue is a Romantic Comedy play that was adapted into a film, both written by F. Hugh Herbert.

The story begins with the meeting of two New Yorkers: Donald Gresham, an independently employed architect who owns five acres in Maine, and Patty O'Neill, an Irish-American aspiring actress. Don and Patty first notice each other in a drug store, and — after following her up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building — he invites her over to his East 49th Street apartment for a drink. She accepts, on the condition that he refrain from making passes at her. The view from the top is obscured by thick fog, which turns to rain by the evening. A couple floors above Don's apartment lives David Slater, a wealthy middle-aged libertine with an eighteen-year-old daughter named Cynthia, who just had an acrimonious breakup with Don, and an ex-wife in Brazil. Patty finds David ingratiating enough to have him stay for a steak dinner, which she cooks in Don's apartment for the three of them. David stays for the rest of the evening, and undermines Don's moral self-assuredness by almost convincing Patty to marry him. For all his affairs, however, David turns out to be as old-fashioned in his attitudes toward parenting as Patty's father.

Otto Preminger, who directed the original 1951 production of the play, produced and directed the film version with William Holden as Don, Maggie McNamara as Patty, and David Niven as David Slater. The film, which was Preminger's first independent production, was released in 1953 by United Artists without the approval of The Hays Code (unusually for its time).

This play and movie contain examples of:

  • Age-Gap Algebra: Patty is 21 years old, and finds out from Don that he's 28 years old. (In the film version, she's 22 and he's 30.) She's quite delighted with her calculations:
    Patty: Isn't that amazing? It just works out.
    Don: What does?
    Patty: Haven't you ever heard that the girl is supposed to be half the man's age, plus seven?
    Don: What girl? What man?
    Patty: Never mind. Beat it.
  • Beef Bandage: After Don receives a shiner from Patty's dad, Patty, who is concerned about his eye but believes he deserved it, suggests this:
    Patty: You should have put some raw steak on it.
    Don (Irate again): If you hadn't invited Slater for dinner there might have been some steak left for me to put on it.
  • Book Ends: The first and last scenes of the play have Don and Patty meeting on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, introducing themselves in the first scene, proposing marriage in the last.
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: When Patty's old-fashioned Irish cop of a father finds her in Donald Gresham's bedroom getting dressed, he hits Don in the eye just hard enough to knock him out. David drops in at this moment, and takes it as a lesson on how to handle his daughter, Cynthia, and goes so far as to chastise Don when he later finds Patty in a similar situation, though he admits that it's none of his business.
  • Caught in the Rain: Don takes Patty over to his apartment for a drink, with the plan being to then go out for dinner. However, a downpour starts, and Patty doesn't have a raincoat, so she decides to make a home-cooked meal instead. He still has to go out and buy groceries, and she still manages to get her dress stained due to David mishandling a ketchup bottle.
  • Closet Shuffle: A few hours after Don has been knocked out by Patty's dad, when he hears someone ringing his doorbell and knocking, he hastily shoves her in his bedroom, remembering to put her purse and jacket in there as well. Unfortunately, when David picks up the phone he overhears her on the bedroom extension, and turns on Don with righteous indignation.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Lampshaded in the final scene: "Just think—we only met yesterday."
  • The Ghost: Cynthia, David's Southern Belle daughter and Don's ex-girlfriend, never appears onstage, nor is her voice heard when she phones him; she does appear in the film version. Vicki, Patty's slightly older roommate, appears in neither play nor film.
  • The Hedonist: David Slater lists his interests as "steaks—liquor—and sex—in that order."
  • Idle Rich: David Slater, who probably never worked a single day in his life and won't have to for the foreseeable future. He wins $600 in a game of gin with a "bloated capitalist who grinds the faces of the poor," who turns out to be Don.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: invoked In-universe: Patty acts and looks like a good girl in person, but plays a tart on TV.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: In the final scene, when Patty suddenly starts arguing with Don about spending so much money on gambling, he tells her: "Will you kindly shut up? We're not married yet." She smiles, realizing what he's just said.
  • Likes Older Men: Patty tells Don that he's too young for her to see as a potential husband, and that she really wants to marry "a nice, middle-aged man with gobs of dough," preferably an unhappily divorced one who might have kids. She finds the type in David Slater.
  • Officer O'Hara: Detective-Sergeant Michael O'Neill, Patty's dad. She describes him as being Brooklyn-born but "Irish from way back" and talking in a thick brogue when he gets angry, which he does in the only scene where he appears.
  • Parody Commercial: Patty appears on television in a singing commercial for beer in the film version.
  • Roman Clef: Discussed: Patty once had an affair with a writer, and months after breaking up with him was shocked to read a short story in The New Yorker written by him telling what was identical to the story of their break-up except for the names.
  • Take Back Your Gift: Patty decides to give David back the six hundred dollars, an amount equivalent to fifteen weeks of her salary, he gave her, when she overhears a remark implying that she ought to have remained beholden to him for that duration.
  • That Liar Lies: Lampshaded, when Don is denying that anything happened between him and Cynthia when she spent the night in his apartment:
    David: She claims that...
    Don: She lies. I never touched her. Moreover, I don't believe you. She'd never say...
    David: She told me, definitely, that you...
    Don: She lies.
    David: Quit yapping "she lies" in that dramatic fashion before I can even finish a sentence. Let me try to recall exactly what she did say.
  • Thinker Pose: Don claims to have found David Slater "sitting over there like Auguste Rodin 's The Thinker" when coming to his senses after being hit in the eye.
  • Would Hit a Girl: David says that his wife divorced him for extreme cruelty after he hit her across the behind with a skillet. "Matter of fact, I rarely strike anyone but a woman," he explains.
  • You Say Tomato:
    Patty: Did you say "invaygled"?
    David: Yes, but I assure you I...
    Patty: Is that how it's pronounced? I always say "inveigled." Is "invaygled" right?
    David: I think so. Inveigled—invaygled—inveigled. Now I don't know. Silly word, isn't it?

Alternative Title(s): The Moon Is Blue