The Play’s the Thing


stage spanking1 stage spanking2Inspired by theatrical spanking posts over at the Spank Statement I did some futile digging into stage incidents of our favourite subject. It wasn’t entirely fruitful and I only turned up one play that was described but not named. I am only sure that it is a real play because it was later turned into a 1930s movie that I have actually seen. If I ever identify it I will report back, but drop me a line if you know it; more about that in a moment.

Amid several different historical stage discussion groups, including Theatre Forum and especially Yahoo, I chanced upon a strange theatrical tradition. Apparently during the 20th century it was the custom in some theatres to spank the leading actresses for luck.

Details were scant but I did find these snippet from MariaNotaDame, a former minor stage actress who was 19 in a series of 1950s and 60s provincial productions, and Janet.

Maria says,

“I went looking for the director and leading man about a script issue and found them in one of the other girl’s dressing rooms. The poor creature had been upended and was receiving a jolly serious little spanking on the seat of her tights. Apparently they had this bottom smacking tradition as well. I was a bit flustered and even more so when George said ‘it’s your turn.’”

“Being 19 and in one of my first jobs I didn’t dare refuse, besides I didn’t want to be a party pooper. But I have to say it was rather disconcerting to be across the director’s knee getting my bottom soundly slapped with gusto. I had had lighter spankings at home and I confess I yelled a bit and was jolly sore. Luckily my part didn’t require much sitting. I was pretty red back there afterwards.”

Janet, a former chorus girl, said,

“We had rather a lot of that sort of thing too. Hell to pay if you had one of those spanking plays. In one production of Kiss Me Kate the leading lady got one hell of an off-stage spanking right before the onstage segment. She didn’t have to act much when it came to not sitting down either.”

One of the spanking plays Kate mentions might well have been the unidentified play I uncovered. It features the headmaster of a public school for boys who is suddenly lumbered with his three nieces, two being late teens and one 21. As you can imagine chaos ensues and the girls become involved with some of the older boys and a teacher.

Apparently there is a caning scene of the youngest girl and her twin brother, whose is student, and later apparently all three girls are apparently caned. Sorry that is vague but it was a very passing reference.

In the movie, if it is the same play and memory serves, the canings are all off-screen. In the final act the girls confess to sins attributed to two younger girls’ boyfriends to save them from a punishment.

“If you must cane someone, cane us,” pipes up the middle girl.

“Yes, we at least deserve,” says the youngest.

“Steady on, I wouldn’t go that far,” says the eldest.

“I would,” says the headmaster.

“But I’m 21,” protests the elder.

Her uncle demurs somewhat but grabs his cane and leads the youngest girl from the room. “I’ll be back to deal with you after,” he says to the other two as he goes.

The two older girls look worried and rub at their bottoms.

I have no idea if the caning is onscreen in the play and I cannot even remember what the movie or the play is called, but the film used to be one of those black and white efforts thrown up occasionally in the afternoon. I posted about it before but there were no takers.

2 Responses to “The Play’s the Thing”

  1. 1 mariawhite1066

    Zola’s novel “L’Assommoir” was made into a stage play by Busnach and Gastineau which featured the public paddling scene. How it was staged I don’t know, but of course the French would not be averse to displaying Virginie’s bare bottom, as proven by the film of the same novel, “Gervaise”. Living out in the boonies, further research is difficult, but as I recall a huge billboard advertising the play and depicting the paddling caused a huge stir when it was erected in the center of Paris.

    • 2 DJ

      Thanks – I have heard of it.

      The French did seem more liberal back in the 1950s – although people forget that in the UK too nudity wasn’t actually banned – there was no code and several comedy’s of the period have middle distance nudity.

      Oneupmanship c.1959 – with Ian Carmichael and Terry Thomas (the latter also featuring in a bare bottom spanking in silhouette) – but these scenes get cut on afternoon TV these days.

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