Stage Plays
Click here to read an excerpt from "Critic's Choice"

Critic’s Choice

“Pan that play tonight and it’s ten to one you wake up tomorrow morning with more integrity and less wife than any man in town.” —Charlotte Orr (Act II)

Critic's Choice was inspired by the preface of a book written by noted critic Walter Kerr, who wrote: “I sometimes have visions of a gag conference in which that slick character who is traditionally known as Manny bounces in, eyes ablaze, and bubbles over with: ‘Listen. This guy's a dramatic critic, see? So his wife writes a play. He's got to review the play. Take it from there.’ ”

Levin took it from there, and created Critic's Choice, a Broadway hit which starred Henry Fonda and Mildred Natwick, and was later filmed starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. (Though the film was a greatly de-fanged rendering of Levin's pithy script.)

Critic's Choice was one of Levin's four out-and-out stage comedies: Critic's Choice, Break A Leg, Drat! The Cat! and No Time For Sergeants.

Interestingly, Deathtrap later took the notion of a partner writing a play, and upped the ante on all counts.

  • John F. Kennedy attended Critic's Choice 12 days before his inauguration. According to the January 8, 1961 New York Times: “Mr. Kennedy was 10 minutes late in arriving at the theatre and the curtain was held for him. The audience later waited for the President-elect to leave the theatre first, and applauded him as he left.”

  • The show's costumes were designed by Oleg Cassini
  • Actress Gena Rowlands was initially slated to co-star
  • Betty White and hubby Allen Ludden's storied love affair began while co-starring in a summer stock production of "Critic's Choice"

(Above) Broadway poster (1960)

(Above) Levin (R) with Otto Preminger and Gena Rowlands

(Above) Original touring company lead Wanda Hendrix