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Writing ‘Bloomer Girl’

In response to:

The Secret of Danny Santiago from the August 16, 1984 issue

To the Editors:

It was belatedly called to my attention that in the John Gregory Dunne article of August 16 on the James/Santiago story, I seem not to have given full credit to my collaborators on the 1944 musical comedy Bloomer Girl. Regrettably this oversight of mine was compounded by the newspapers which only partially reprinted Dunne’s piece.

The facts in brief are as follows: the originator of the story idea from which the musical grew was my wife, Lilith James, who charmingly chose the perversities of Fashion to dramatize the early struggles of the Women’s Rights movement. She also developed the principal characters. I joined her in writing a first draft of the libretto. It failed to satisfy our lyricist, E.Y. Harburg, and Harold Arlen, the composer. It also failed to satisfy us. An impasse developed at which point all agreed to call in the team of Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy who were experienced writers in the field of musical comedy. They reworked the material to the satisfaction of everyone but Lilith and myself, who had hoped to invade Gilbert & Sullivan territory, with what we thought was a light-hearted paradoxical look at history. What I took for a personal artistic failure for which I blamed first of all myself, went on to become a lavish entertainment which played on Broadway for eighteen months and has since often been revived in summer theater. If I was not delighted, audiences certainly were and full credit for this should be given to Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy (now deceased) without whom the production would never have taken place.

I deeply regret that this clarification will reach only a fraction of those who read John Gregory Dunne’s piece and its successors.

Dan James/Danny Santiago

Carmel, California

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