Nichols, Anne

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Born 26 November, late 1890s, Dales Mills, Georgia; died 15 September 1966

Daughter of George and Julia Bates Nichols; married Henry Duffy, 1914; children: one son

Playwright, producer, director, and actress, Anne Nichols began performing at age fifteen and continued to be active in the performing arts into the 1950s. Married to a theatrical producer, and mother of one son, Nichols toured with vaudeville and traveling acting companies, frequently writing scripts for their use. Her writing versatility extended from vaudeville sketches, full-length plays, and musicals to film scenarios and radio adaptations. She produced both her own works and others', and she acted on stage and in films.

The themes and emphasis of Nichols' many plays can be identified easily through their titles: Just Married (1921) and Heart's Desire (1916), written with Adelaide Matthews, Her Weekend (later titled Pre Engagement, 1936), and Marry in Haste (1921). The varieties of farcical complications which either separate lovers and honeymooners or inadvertently join complete strangers are reused from one play to the next. Mistaken identities, improbable coincidences, quarreling lovers, ticket mix-ups, and unimportant but closely guarded secrets fill each work. The lighthearted activities invariably end in happy marriage, with particular emphasis on the now-fulfilled proprieties. Social obligations are met, families are united, and proper engagements or marriages are planned.

Nichols' best-known work is Abie's Irish Rose (1922), which has been periodically revived and was recently (1998) recorded on tape. It was filmed in 1928 and formed the basis for a television situation comedy (Bridget Loves Bernie) in the 1970s. Well received by the general audiences in its New York and international appearances, the play was panned initially by the New York Times. Replete with Jewish dialect and Irish brogue, it calls upon mechanical devices to present every cliché ever offered by disapproving parents about the marriage of their children. In doubling the traditional means of reconciliation (twins instead of just a single child), the play's final scene is a triumph of sentimentality.

In her various theatrical activities, Nichols seldom varied from the trite limits of the well-made farce; nevertheless, her popular success indicates a clear awareness of the public taste and a smooth, competent ability to meet it. Nichols entertains without making demands on her audience's intelligence or attitudes.


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Nichols, Anne

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