Ben Travers

Ben Travers CBE AFC (12 November 1886 – 18 December 1980) was an English writer. His output includes more than twenty plays, thirty screenplays, five novels, and three volumes of memoirs. He is best remembered for his long-running series of farces first staged in the 1920s and 1930s at the Aldwych Theatre. Many of these were made into films and later television productions.

After working for some years in his family’s wholesale grocery business, which he detested, Travers was given a job by the publisher John Lane in 1911. After service as a pilot in the First World War, he began to write novels and plays. He turned his 1921 novel, The Dippers, into a play that was first produced in the West End in 1922. His big break came in 1925, when the actor-manager Tom Walls bought the performing rights to his play A Cuckoo in the Nest, which ran for more than a year at the Aldwych. He followed this success with eight more farces for Walls and his team; the last in the series closed in 1933. Most of the farces were adapted for film in the 1930s and 1940s, with Travers writing the screenplays for eight of them.

After the Aldwych series came to a close, in 1935 Travers wrote a serious play with a religious theme. It was unsuccessful, and he returned to comedy. Of his later farces only one, Banana Ridge (1938), rivalled the runs of his 1920s hits; it was filmed in 1942. During the Second World War Travers served in the Royal Air Force, working in intelligence, and later served at the Ministry of Information, while producing two well-received plays.

After the war Travers’s output declined; he had a long fallow period after the death of his wife in 1951, although he collaborated on a few revivals and adaptations of his earlier work. He returned to playwriting in 1968. He was inspired to write a new comedy in the early 1970s after the abolition of theatre censorship in Britain permitted him to write without evasion about sexual activities, one of his favourite topics. The resulting play, The Bed Before Yesterday (1975), presented when he was 89, was the longest-running of all his stage works, easily outplaying any of his Aldwych farces.

Plays authored

Past productions

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