The Honeymooners

Not all theatrical spankings happen in full-length plays. The Honeymooners was a 14-minute sketch written by Thompson Buchanan (1877-1937) that was first staged as part of a vaudeville show at the Princess Theatre, New York, in May 1915. The producer was the actor and promoter William A. Brady, and the girl in the sketch was played by his daughter, Alice:

Honeymooners Alice Brady

The sketch is set on the rear observation platform of a moving train, the Congressional Limited, with a rocking set and back-projected film of the countryside passing by – sophisticated stage technology for the theater of a century ago. On board are a young couple who have just eloped; the girl is 18 years old and she is wearing a gray traveling suit. They have taken a stateroom on the train but are back here watching the world go by, not entirely relaxed for fear of pursuit by her outraged father. They encounter a wise, indulgent ticket collector, but after the young man slips out for something, another passenger comes onto the observation platform – her father!

Father is not best pleased by the elopement, and his daughter soon finds herself across his knee being spanked. Then the ticket collector comes back. Father explains who he is and why he has a right to do what he’s doing. Daughter insists that he’s lying, that she’s never seen this man before in her life and he has absolutely no right to spank her. Then her young man returns and confirms her story: the man administering the spanking is certainly not her father. Exposed as a ‘chaser’, the old man gets the bum’s rush, and the lovers are left to themselves.

The sketch was remounted at the Palace Theatre, New York, in September 1915 with a new cast. Edna Hibbard now took over as the daughter.

Honeymooners Edna Hibbard

Her spanking at the hands of Charles Canfield was considered the best thing in a somewhat talky sketch, though some thought it all a little too risqué, dialog and action alike. And that criticism was repeated six years later, when the sketch was revived again as part of a 1921 burlesque show at the Columbia Theatre, still in New York.

Nobody knows whether the Congressional Limited ever made it beyond the city limits: no records have been discovered to show that The Honeymooners was ever performed anywhere else in America. But the author, Thompson Buchanan, did have one more spanking up his sleeve. In 1919, he wrote a comedy called Civilian Clothes, in which the central character is a young socialite named Florence. Here she is in the original production, played by Olive Tell:

CIvilian Clothes

Don’t get excited, because it’s an offstage spanking that happened in the past (though fortunately it was the relatively recent past), and in the play it’s simply a matter of passing reminiscence by Florence’s boyfriend, Billy. The third party in the case is her Irish maid, Nora. ‘Remember the time, Flo,’ says Billy, ‘she caught me kissing you and spanked you for leading me into temptation?’ Florence insists, a little too pointedly, that she remembers nothing. What a shame Billy didn’t think of giving her a reminder!

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