Born 1886, Kenduskeag, Maine; died death date unknown
All except one of Adelaide Matthews' plays were written with collaborators. Her most famous coauthor was Anne Nichols, whose reputation rests mainly upon her own play Abie's Irish Rose. Matthews' most frequent collaborator was Martha Stanley, with whom she wrote eight plays between 1919 and 1930. W. C. Duncan and Lucille Sawyer each collaborated once with Matthews.
It is difficult to distinguish what Matthews' contribution may have been to these joint efforts. All the plays were written for undiscriminating popular theater audiences. The plays abound with contrived comic business that audiences found hilarious, but is trite and silly in print. Characters are not individuated; each is simply assigned an age, a degree of physical attractiveness, and enough stupidity to keep the situation unresolved until the last act. The most distinctive character type that emerges in a number of the plays is the flighty, middle-aged woman who becomes hysterical at the slightest provocation.
If Matthews' plays have any redeeming value for the modern render, it is their depiction of social mores of the 1920s. In Puppy Love (1925), for example, much of the intrigue depends upon a quantity of bootleg gin temporarily stored in a convenient teapot that is unsuspectingly pressed into service. The ensuing merriment causes the ladies to abandon their stand against marriage, and a double ceremony is performed on the spot. There are references to a ukulele used by one of the young suitors, to flappers and petting parties, and to the moving pictures.
Anne Nichols was the producer of Puppy Love, which Matthews wrote with Martha Stanley. Matthews had collaborated with Nichols as early as 1917 on a farcical comedy entitled What'sYour Number? It was produced in New York and London in the early 1920s as Just Married, and in Berlin in 1929 as Nearly Married. This comedy is set on a transatlantic steamer. Robert Adams and Roberta Adams are strangers who are mistakenly assigned to the same stateroom. The error goes undetected until morning, since he entered in the dark after she was asleep. Misunderstandings involving a number of other characters grow out of Roberta's attempts to save her reputation, but all is set right when Robert and Roberta, predictably, fall in love and decide to marry.
Matthews' work might best be summed up in the words of the New York Times reviewer for her Nightie Night (1919), which occasioned "several hours of continuous and unforced laughter.… It is made of materials that have been used so often in the last twenty-five years that they are worn through in spots. And yet it is funny."
The Teaser (with M. Stanley, 1921). Where Innocence Is Bliss (with M. Stanley, 1921). An Errand for Polly (with W. C. Duncan, 1926). The Wasp's Nest (with M. Stanley, 1927). Sunset Glow (with L. Sawyer, 1929). The First Mrs. Chiverick (with M. Stanley, 1930; produced, as Scrambled Wives, 1920). Innocent Anne (with M. Stanley, 1930). It Never Happens Twice (1938).
NYT (10 Sept. 1919, 6 Aug. 1920, 28 July 1921, 28 Jan. 1926, 26 Oct. 1927).
—FELICIA HARDISON LONDRÉ