Archive of William Saroyan's play, 'Sam the Highest Jumper of Them All, or a London Comedy'.

London: 1960.

Price: $20,000.00


About the item

Approx. 500 pp. Fine. Kherdian 52; Calta, Louis, "Saroyan Writing Play in London," The New York Times, March 23, 1960.

Item #324602

Saroyan wrote 'Sam, The Highest Jumper Of Them All, or the London Comedy' in 1960, when he was touring Europe. He needed to pay off some income tax bills back home and hoped to strike it rich by writing a critically successful comedy in each city that he visited. In London he reached out to producer Joan Littlewood, whose Theatre Workshop was at the peak of its influence for staging sprawling experimental theatre; they had debuted Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children" (1955) and created the award-winning underground musical "Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be" (1959). Littlewood suggested that Saroyan improvise something with the company, and this produced "Sam the Highest Jumper of Them All." Saroyan called the work "an example of free theatre." He brought the ideas to the theatre, having typed up lines and snippets of ideas, and the script was worked out with the actors during rehearsal, and continued to change during the four-week run that began April 6, 1960.

“According to accounts emanating from the British capital, Mr. Saroyan arrives at the theatre every morning with a bundle of manuscript. This includes situations he has outlined and dialogue that he has written in his hotel room the night before. As the rehearsal goes on, the script is cut, altered, reshaped and molded to fit the actors who are bringing the Saroyan characters to life." (Calta, NYT)

The play was a rambling and experimental political allegory; the reviews were unkind, and the windfall Saroyan had hoped for eluded him. Saroyan's ambitions were misunderstood, or underdeveloped, nevertheless, it remains an important experiment of the period, and was revived in 2008 at London's Finborough Theatre.

This archive consists of various drafts, beginning with Saroyan’s manuscript notes and typescript fragments, written at the Savoy Hotel in London, often written in the middle of the night, which he brought to the next day's rehearsal, also various printed typescript drafts that are radically corrected and annotated, as well as some more or less finished mimeograph printings, and finally printers proofs. A fascinating extensive record of the workings of Saroyan and the experimental theatre of this fertile period.

The contents are as follows:

1) Collected notes, AN, AL, and TS pages of early drafts and ideas towards the creation of the play, approx. 185 pp., dated "Feb. 29, 1960” to “April 10, 1960”

2) Typescript draft, signed and dated “March 19, 1960” by Saroyan on front cover; 42 large 4to leaves, most printed on rectos only, with some interleaved paste-ups, including several leaves completely in Saroyan’s hand, many pages heavily corrected in ink.

3) Typescript draft, signed and dated “March 21, 1960” by Saroyan; 65 large 4to leaves, most printed on rectos only, with some paste-ups, including several leaves completely in Saroyan’s hand, many pages heavily corrected in ink; [WITH] four songs, "Words and Music by William Saroyan"; each a photocopy of handwritten music and lyrics on music sheets, printed rectos only.
“Sam the Highest Jumper of Them All” 3 pp.
“The Ballad of Nellie Miller” 4 pp.
“To Many People” 3 pp.
“Around the Moon” 2 pp.

4) Typescript draft, initialed by Saroyan and dated in type “5-3-60” through “10-3-60”; 48 4to and large 4to leaves, printed on rectos only, many pages heavily corrected in ink; [WITH] "Cast List, 7/3/60", 2 pp., holograph; [WITH] "Rehearsal Notes: 8-3-60", 4 pp. TS
 
5) Mimeograph TS, with few corrections in pencil in Saroyan’s hand; n.d., plain buff wrappers, 61 leaves printed on rectos only, stapled; [WITH] 2 copies of mimeograph TS of Saroyan's letter to the editors who panned the play, 2 pp., London, April 10, 1960

6) Mimeograph TS draft, n.d., (possibly a final draft with no holograph corrections), 57 leaves

7) Publisher's printed long galleys, London: Faber and Faber, (1961), 29 leaves (25" x 6"), printed on rectos only, stapled

8) Duplicate draft of 6): (Mimeograph TS draft, n.d., (possibly a final draft with no holograph corrections), 57 leaves)

9) Publisher's printed long galleys, London: Faber and Faber, (1961), 29 leaves (25" x 6"), printed on rectos only, stapled but somewhat disbound; SIGNED by Saroyan "William Saroyan / 74 Rue Taitbout Paris / Fri Jan 27 1961"

10) ANS, 4 pp., from William [Feas...]; TNS to Saroyan from Max Marlin, Broadway musical arranger; ‘News Chronicle and Daily Dispatch.’ Friday, April 3, 1960. No. 25,479; Gala Preview program for the play, April 5, 1960, docketed as such in Saroyan's hand.