The Stockton Ranch and Hope for a Harvest

Treadwell was never able to match the theatrical success of Machinal. Subsequent plays, Ladies Leave (1929), Lone Valley (1933) and Plumes in the Dust (1936), ran no more than fifteen performances each on Broadway. Lone Valley was especially disappointing for Treadwell, for she had been revising and trying out the play for six years prior to producing and directing it herself on Broadway.

Her professional losses were matched by personal ones: her husband William McGeehan died a few months after the failure of Lone Valley and her mother died the following year. After the short run of Plumes, Treadwell began a period of personal reassessment. She traveled to Egypt and the Far East in 1936, upon completion of which she returned to her family ranch in Stockton, California. There, she began an intensely autobiographical novel, Hope for a Harvest. Although it remains unpublished, the novel, set on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley, became the basis for her last Broadway play.

The drama Hope for a Harvest was produced by the Theatre Guild in 1941 in a production featuring Fredric March and Florence Eldridge. The play examined the seeming loss of the American work ethic, and voiced a concern that the racism and prejudice plaguing Europe in World War II could flourish in the U.S. The production received excellent notices in tryout cities along the East Coast. But New York critics largely dismissed the play as naive when it opened on Broadway. About ten days after its Broadway premiere, the bombing of Pearl Harbor effectively ended audience’s abilities to sympathize with its social critique of America’s changing mores. An adaptation of the play was aired on American television in 1953.


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