The Theater: London's Lightfoot Lad

Terence Rattigan was just 24 when he sold his first play. It was a fribble thing called French Without Tears, but the customers liked it. A smash hit, it ran for 1,030 performances in London (1936-39), 111 in New York (1937).

His next two plays were flops. Then war came, and Rattigan joined the R.A.F. He spent much of the next five years on North Sea air patrol.

Betweentimes he scripted one of Britain's best wartime films, The Way to the Stars, and wrote three more hit plays—each about as bright and empty as an...

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